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Mentorship Programs That Will Lead Your Students to Success

Mentorship Programs That Will Lead Your Students to Success

With social and emotional health top of mind for many schools, mentorship programs have become a popular way to create opportunities for students to have a positive, adult influence in their lives. The National Mentoring Resource Center states: “Regardless of the structure, staffing, and goals of the program, mentoring programs in schools have shown to be a cost-efficient way of increasing the positive relationships students have in their lives, while also having the potential to boost factors that can lead to educational success.”  

Whether your school already has a mentorship program or you’re wanting to start one, check out these six tips to help get you started so that your school’s mentorship program can be successful and make an impact on the participating students:

1. Define goals

Before starting any large project, it’s always smart to get a clear idea of what it is you are trying to accomplish. According To the MN Programs of Study brochure, “How to Design a School-Based Mentoring Program,” this is one of the first things to consider after you’ve committed to establishing a mentorship program. What are the reasons for starting a mentorship program at your school? How will you know if it’s successful or not? Think about what’s measurable and achievable for this program so that you can track success and make changes down the line. It’s important for everyone involved to be on the same page and work with the same end goal in mind.

2. Find the right mentors

It goes without saying that finding the right mentors for your program is the best way to guarantee it will impactful for the students involved. The trick is knowing where to look. Start by asking for volunteers from your school community to help, such as teachers, parents, or even local professionals. Depending on what the goal of your program is, try to find volunteers whose lives or careers align to that goal. For example, if your program is dedicated to encouraging students to pursue postsecondary education, it would likely be important for their mentor to have gone to college.

You should also be strategic in selecting volunteers and consider the type of students who will participate in your program. According to a 2012 research brief conducted by UC/ACCORD, certain types of mentors, like a coach, athletic director, or employer, are more effective mentors to low-income students; whereas family members, teachers, or guidance counselors are more effective mentors to middle-/high-income students.

3. Train your mentors

Once you’ve managed to round up some volunteers, provide them with some guidance on what they will be doing as mentors. Not only is it crucial for your mentors to be 100-percent committed to their role, but it’s also important to for them to fully understand what their expectations are as mentors, what their level of involvement will be, and what sort of engagement is appropriate and safe with students. Putting them through a little bit of training before they begin meeting with students will help avoid any potential issues, ensure that they know proper boundaries with students, and make their meetings more impactful.

4. Provide a safe place and consistent time

Starting good habits takes routine and practice, just like a good mentorship program. An Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE) article, “Making a Difference with At-Risk Students: The Benefits of a Mentoring Program in Middle School,” suggests that time and frequency are two structural considerations when creating a mentorship program and that holding consistent meetings about once a week will help the student-mentor relationship grow.

5. Cultivate relationships and trust

As a mentor, building a relationship and gaining trust from the mentee is key. It can be tough to get started, which is why AMLE suggests playing card games or doing something engaging while having conversation. This may help make those first meetings a little more comfortable. It’s also important for your mentors to help their mentees pursue their personal goals. Whether the goals are behavioral, physical, academic, or social, guiding mentees toward realistic goals and asking about their progression will help them know that their mentors care.

6. Get the mentee connected

Once your mentors have built a relationship with their mentees (depending on the student’s age), it’s a good idea to encourage conversations about college or their next steps after high school graduation. An Education Week blog post, “How to Create a Successful Mentorship Program,” makes it clear that mentors can add an incredible amount of value if they can get students connected with college interviews or potential internships. Even just bringing the ideas to the table and sharing personal experience could make or break a student’s decision to pursue postsecondary education.

Mentorship programs may not seem like the easiest thing to start at your school, but the impact that a mentor can have on students makes such programs well worth it. For more information on mentorship programs, check out the National Mentoring Resource Center. Also, check out our blog post for tips on becoming a better mentor!