Evidence Rating: Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on August 03, 2015


Program Summary

An e-mentoring program for high school students with mild learning disabilities to improve their ability to identify postsecondary career goals and the steps necessary to achieve them. This program is rated Promising. The program group showed significant improvement in transition competency, social connectedness, and self-determination. However, there were no significant differences on outcome measures of career/educational goals, academic connectedness, and familial connectedness.

You can read the full review on CrimeSolutions.gov.

OCTOBER 23, 2017
BY: CLAIRE DORN, PROGRAM DIRECTOR, ASPIRA INC. OF ILLINOIS

ASPIRA Inc.ASPIRA Inc. of Illinois is a Puerto Rican non-profit organization committed to the self-determination of Latino and other underserved youth through educational opportunity, leadership development, and cultural awareness.

In the City of Chicago, many young people of color lack the support and funding that create pathways toward opportunity. ASPIRA mentors play a crucial role by stepping up in their communities to support Latino teens in establishing and achieving personal, academic, and professional goals. Mentors join the ASPIRA Mentoring Program for various reasons. Some want to build positive connections with a younger generation and empower youth to develop as leaders, while others are eager to support first generation youth through their shared identities and experiences. Although mentors come from diverse professional and cultural backgrounds, they are trained to provide meaningful insight and support during critical times in the mentees’ lives.

Published in NMRC Blog
Thursday, 19 May 2016 12:30

Better Futures

*Note: The National Mentoring Resource Center makes these “Insights for Mentoring Practitioners” available for each program or practice reviewed by the National Mentoring Resource Center Research Board. Their purpose is to give mentoring professionals additional information and understanding that can help them apply reviews to their own programs. You can read the full review on the National Mentoring Resource Center website.


In considering the key takeaways from the research on this program that other mentoring programs can apply to their work, it’s useful to reflect on the features and practices that might have influenced its rating as “Effective” (that is, a program that shows definitive evidence of effectiveness)…

Perhaps the first thing that jumps out to readers of the evaluation of Better Futures is the substantial effect sizes that this program has achieved. Effect sizes are, essentially, a measure of just how much change from business-as-usual that an intervention or program has made on participants. In general, mentoring programs as a whole produce an effect size that is considered to be “small” (the 2011 meta-analysis led by NMRC Research Board Chair Dr. David DuBois found an overall effect size of .21). But Better Futures as produced impacts that go far beyond these modest gains, with effect sizes ranging from .74 to 1.75 for just about every outcome the evaluation examined. Only the outcomes of “mental health recovery” and “quality of life” failed to show statistically significant changes for participants compared to a randomly assigned control group of youth. But in every other possible outcome, this program produced impacts that were frequently “large” by the standard definition and downright massive in comparison to most mentoring interventions.

So how did Better Futures achieve all this? Let’s look at a few meaningful factors:

A great application of relevant theory when designing the program

As we’ve noted in considering other program reviews for the NMRC, one of the keys to success for mentoring programs may be making sure that the services are building on relevant theories and prior research that indicates that mentors will produce results within the context of the youth needs being addressed. Better Futures does an excellent job of this in its design by building on the concepts of Self-Determination Theory, which is premised on the idea that an individual’s well-being is influenced by the degree of autonomy and skill he or she has in his or her own self-care. This program clearly is built around the idea of empowering youth in foster care—youth who by nature of their experience in the child welfare system may have felt very, very disempowered in the course their life has taken. The program is built on a foundation of self-determination and that idea that if these youth are put in the driver’s seat of their postsecondary planning, and provided with just enough mentoring, skill development, and instrumental support as scaffolding, that the results will be meaningful. And this evaluation certainly seems to indicate that they were correct. Participants empowered in this manner were found to leave this program in a very different place than many of their non-participant peers and all of that arguably starts with the theory of self-determinism and the cultivation of mentoring services that will enhance that self-determinism in mentees.

Normalizing the experience of aging out of foster care and going into post-secondary life

Another relevant idea that we can see play out in the design of this program is that of “normalizing” what is essentially an abnormal experience. Youth in the child welfare system live, by default, lives that are anything but normal. The uncertainty, shifting environments, and inconsistent care offered by that system can leave youth feeling like they are very much anomalies among their peers. In fact, the NMRC has reviewed another promising mentoring program for serving foster youth that emphasizes making the experience seem more “normal” by having them interact with peers who are in similar circumstances. Better Futures seeks to achieve this “normalization” by bringing participants together for a multi-day “institute” on a college campus where they can interact with dozens of youth who are facing the same challenges and uncertainties as they head into young adulthood and plan for life after high school. The potential power of bringing together cohorts of youth going through the same difficult transition cannot be overstated as this offers the opportunity for connections to multiple mentors and a wealth of peer learning and information sharing, along with the overarching relief of knowing “I’m not in this alone.”

Offering a blend of developmental and instrumental mentoring

The support offered by Better Futures is, in many cases, highly “instrumental” in nature—that is, it emphasizes teaching, information sharing, and helping youth achieve some concrete goal or complete some discrete task. In fact, the mentors in the program have a suite of 17 different “experiences” that they are supposed to provide to youth, as well as 11 targeted self-determination “skills” they are supposed to teach, all in the service of preparing a plan for post-secondary education. So the experience of being a mentee in the program appears largely to be that of getting some concrete help on all this planning and completing the often mundane tasks associated with going to college, such as applying for financial aid or figuring out housing circumstances. But the way that the program does this is also relationship-driven and there is a heavy emphasis on personal growth, reflection, and peer support. This is a program that values relationships and encourages participants to, for the first time in their lives, take control of their future and the trajectory of the years to come. This combination of developmental mentoring and instrumental support is very much in alignment with recent theory about how mentors might work best with youth, helping them grow as people generally while also providing targeted instrumental support to overcome hurdles as needed. (For more on this idea, see this special issue of New Directions for Youth Development; the full text articles may be available through the services of public or university libraries.)

Picking the right mentors to help “normalize” this transition

Another key factor in the success of Better Futures may be who they ask to fill the mentor role. The mentors in this program are all young adults who have been to college and who also themselves have been in the foster care system or dealt with mental health issues. One can imagine that seeing a slightly older person who comes from a similar background and has managed to make this transition is highly motivating and empowering to participants. These mentors are likely to have invaluable first-hand experience with the struggles, the stumbling blocks, and the “tips” that can make this transition go well for mentees. It’s hard to imagine any old volunteer bringing the same level of understanding, skill, and personal lived experience to the table, no matter how good the training provided. This program does a nice job of backing up its self-determination message with living examples of what that transition looks like on the other side.

Tracking fidelity of implementation… flexibly

Another interesting feature of the program is found in those 17 “experiences” and 11 skills that the program tries to give mentees. As suggested earlier in this discussion, when a program is this grounded in meaningful theory and the expected changes, one might assume that fidelity to the model (how rigorously the program does certain tasks) is paramount, even though each mentee is a unique person with unique challenges and needs. But Better Futures finds a very nice middle ground between the rigidity of the model and the flexibility to meet clients where they are at. The mentors in the program are not expected to deliver all 17 of those “experiences” to every mentee, but rather, to select the ones that are most relevant to each of the individual participants. This way, the program can deliver a whole host of relevant skill-building and instrumental supports to every youth in the program, while also maintaining the flexibility needed to customize the experience in accordance with that overarching self-determination principle.

The mentors are encouraged to provide as many of the experiences as possible, but this can, as noted, be customized and tailored to the individual. The mentors are also responsible for tracking the components of the intervention that each mentee receives. Even though the program allows for a lot of flexibility, their fidelity results speak for themselves: 100% participation in the Summer Institute elements, 99.3% in exposure to the 11 self-determination skills, and 90.4% participation in the 17 experiential activities. These results speak to a program that allows mentors to give mentees the right developmental experiences but also ensure that everyone in the program is getting a robust intervention. After many years in the child welfare system, one can only imagine how nice it must feel to mentees to have services customized to their needs and not be shoved into a one-size-fits-all approach.

In spite of these strong outcomes and innovative approaches, there are some caveats that service providers should keep in mind when thinking about this program:

  • The evaluation does not provide a cost-per-match estimate, but one imagines that the multi-day Institute and customized support after are not low-cost. This program is providing a lot of support, but it is unclear how scalable this model is, both for cost and logistical reasons.

  • The evaluation also does not examine whether these youth actually went to college more than control youth. One might assume that they did, given their massive gains in measures of planning and preparation, but it’s unclear whether the program actually led to more of these youth attending, and subsequently graduating, from their chosen higher education institutions. A follow-up study looking at those outcomes would be a nice addition to our understanding here.

For more information on research-informed program practices and tools for implementation, be sure to consult the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™ and the "Resources for Mentoring Programs" section of the National Mentoring Resource Center site.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016 15:02

Better Futures Program

Evidence Rating: Effective - One study

Date: This profile was posted on August 22, 2016


Program Summary

A program designed to help young people in foster care with serious mental health challenges prepare for postsecondary education. The program is rated Effective. Youths who received the intervention had significant improvements on self-determination, mental health empowerment, transition planning, career self-efficacy, hope, barriers to education, postsecondary preparation, and transition planning, but not on quality of life or mental health recovery.

You can read the full review on CrimeSolutions.gov.

SEPTEMBER 14, 2018
BY: MELANIE ERVIN, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATION, ADOPT A CLASS

Adopt a Class ModelAdopt A Class, a Unique Approach to Group Mentoring

Hi Friends, It’s Melanie Ervin, Director of Communication of Adopt A Class. I am here to share our work and 3 lessons we’ve learned that has sustained our program year over year.

But first, What is Adopt A Class?

Adopt A Class (AAC) is group mentoring program in Greater Cincinnati that connects businesses and civic groups to students in high poverty schools. Serving students Pre-K through 8th grade for more than 15 years, the AAC program positively impacts the students AND businesses involved. Today, Adopt A Class serves over 6000 students with the help of over 2500 mentors, representing 150 organizations.

Published in NMRC Blog
Webinar Date: August 20, 2015

PANELISTS

  • Tammy Pearson, Director of Project Leadership
  • Tracy Butler, a national speaker and consultant

RESOURCES:

Paper Why Practice for the SAT?
Paper Sample Mentoring Partner MOU
Paper Indiana CCM Program Assessment
Paper Download the Presentation Slides

Published in Webinars
 
  • Description of Resource:

    This toolkit provides guidance on the design and development of mentoring programs that promote college and career success for youth. It contains recommendations on how to design a college and career mentoring (CCM) program by utilizing data, creating buy-in from stakeholders and building partnerships, and explains how these programs can select, prepare, and support mentors. It reviews ways to create communities of support for mentors and mentees, provides suggestions for programming related to college and career readiness, and lists additional resources, data tools, and program examples.

    Goals:

    To guide mentoring coordinators through the design and development of a college and career mentoring (CCM) program.

    Target Population/Eligibility of Target Sites:

    Mentoring programs designed to promote college preparation activities. Although the resource references Indiana, its recommendations are applicable to other states.

    Corresponding Elements of Effective Practice:

    All

    Key Personnel:

    N/A

    Additional Information:

    This resource was produce in partnership by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and the Indiana Youth Institute with support from the U.S. Department of Education.

    This resource does not necessarily include comprehensive consideration of the latest evidence-informed standards for effective practice in mentoring. Users of the resource are advised to consult the Elements of Effective Practice for MentoringTM, Fourth Edition and incorporate careful attention to these into any initiatives to provide mentoring in support of college and career success. Furthermore, given that the audience to whom this resource is directed is quite broad, users of this resource should confirm that the resources-based practices to be implemented are not identified as contraindicated or proscribed in the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring for their specific population of mentors, mentees, program context or goals.

  • Resource Name:

    College and Career Success Mentoring Toolkit

    Publisher/Source:

    Indiana Commission for Higher Education and the Indiana Youth Institute

    Author:

    Not specified

    Date of Publication:

    Not specified

    Resource Type:

    Program Management Resources








  • Evaluation Methodology:

    Resource has not been evaluated for effectiveness

    Evaluation Outcomes:

    Resource has not been evaluated for effectiveness

    Evaluation Validity:

    Resource has not been evaluated for effectiveness












  • Accessing and Using this Resource:

    This resource can be accessed freely online in PDF form, at:
    http://s3.amazonaws.com/indiana-mentoring-partnership/files/CCM-Toolkit.pdf

















  • References:

    Evidence Base: N/A

    Additional References: N/A



























College and Career Success Mentoring Toolkit

Access this Resource

Click here to download a PDF of this Resource.

Sunday, 19 October 2014 20:11

College Positive Mentoring Toolkit

 
  • Description of Resource:

    The College Positive Mentoring Toolkit is designed to provide mentors with information, conversation starters, match activity ideas, and ready-to-use activities to help their mentees take important steps toward higher education. The materials are divided into sections dedicated to the needs of elementary, middle school, and high school students. Checklists for each age range highlight important milestones and steps youth should take on their journey toward higher education.

    Although many college prep resources are targeted at only older students or focus on the college application and financial aid processes, these materials also lay the foundation starting at a young age and helping youth see college as something that is not only desirable, but something that they can achieve.

    Goals:

    These materials are intended to empower young people in mentoring programs to consider education beyond high school as a realistic option as well as to equip them with the tools to plan for and attend post-secondary education.

    Target Population/Eligibility of Target Sites:

    Intended for use with all age ranges of mentees and in any site- or community-based program that seeks to encourage youth to plan for a successful future.

    Corresponding Elements of Effective Practice:

    Monitoring and Support

    Key Personnel:

    None required, although program staff may want to review the use of these materials with mentors.

    Additional Information:

    None.

  • Resource Name:

    College Positive Mentoring Toolkit

    Publisher/Source:

    Mentor Michigan

    Author:

    Mentor Michigan and Michigan Campus Compact

    Date of Publication:

    2011?

    Resource Type:

    Mentor Guides and Handouts








  • Evaluation Methodology:

    Resource has not been evaluated for effectiveness

    Evaluation Outcomes:

    Resource has not been evaluated for effectiveness

    Evaluation Validity:

    Resource has not been evaluated for effectiveness












  • Accessing and Using this Resource:

    The toolkit is available free on the Mentor Michigan site at: http://www.michigan.gov/mentormichigan/0,4618,7-193-27047-257240--,00.html

    Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.















  • References:

    None

























College Positive Mentoring

Access this Resource

Click here to download a PDF of this Resource.

 
  • Description of Resource:

    This 12-module curriculum and activity guide is designed to assist mentors in working with middle school youth to explore postsecondary education. The mentor-mentee activities (with detailed steps, tips for communication, and lists of websites and other activity supports) cover three main topics: thinking about potential careers, exploring college options, and building character that will help foster success. The modules can be done sequentially or mixed and matched to meet program needs. The guide also includes worksheets and other planning tools that mentors and youth can use to work toward college or career goals.

    Goals:

    Support middle school age mentees by developing career and academic interests and goals.

    Target Population/Eligibility of Target Sites:

    Intended for use with middle school age youth.

    Corresponding Elements of Effective Practice:

    Training
    Monitoring and Support

    Key Personnel:

    None.

    Additional Information:

    None.

  • Resource Name:

    Discovering the Possibilities: "C"ing Your Future

    Publisher/Source:

    Mentoring Partnership of Long Island

    Author:

    Cindy Sturtevant Borden

    Date of Publication:

    2012

    Resource Type:

    Mentor Guides and Handouts








  • Evaluation Methodology:

    Resource has not been evaluated for effectiveness

    Evaluation Outcomes:

    Resource has not been evaluated for effectiveness

    Evaluation Validity:

    Resource has not been evaluated for effectiveness












  • Accessing and Using this Resource:

    This resource is available for free download from the Mentoring Partnership of Long Island at: http://www.mentornewyork.org/research-and-resources/9-uncategorised/166-discovering-the-possibilities-updated 












  • References:

    None

























"Discovering

Access this Resource

Click here to download a PDF of this Resource.

*Note: The National Mentoring Resource Center makes these “Insights for Mentoring Practitioners” available for each program or practice reviewed by the National Mentoring Resource Center Research Board. Their purpose is to give mentoring professionals additional information and understanding that can help them apply reviews to their own programs. You can read this program's full review on the Crime Solutions website.


In considering the key takeaways from the research on this program that other mentoring programs can apply to their work, it’s useful to reflect on the features and practices that might have influenced its rating as “Promising” (that is, a program that shows some evidence that it achieves justice-related goals when implemented with fidelity).

Combining e-mentoring with in-person activities can be an impactful combination.

One of the distinctions that may be crumbling in the youth mentoring world is between in-person and online mentoring. For years this has been presented as an “either/or” proposition: Either a program provides that direct, almost intimate kind of support, or they go the e-mentoring route and solely use technology. Fortunately, the advancements in social media and technology saturation is changing the way mentoring programs think about allowing or integrating online interactions. Successful program models like the E-Mentoring Program for Secondary Students with Learning Disabilities also represent strong reasons to consider this blended approach.

This program actually provided a big part of the services to the control group: two visits to a local higher education institution to see what campus life was like and to talk about how to succeed in a college atmosphere. What the “treatment” kids got was a 12-week e-mentoring relationship and the chance to meet with their mentor on that second visit. And based on that difference alone, the mentored students fared far better on terms of their competency around their post-secondary transition, their self-determination, and their connectedness to others. And these were not lengthy or “high dosage” relationships: just a couple of online interactions around a set activity each week. And yet the program produced statistically significant results for mentored youth compared to those who only got the campus tours. (The program evaluators did wonder, however, if a longer program duration than three months might have produced even stronger results.)

This illustrates that when it comes to a daunting life transition, such as planning for life after high school, it can really be helpful to have another person guiding you, teaching you appropriate skills, and growing your confidence in your ability to handle the change. Programs that are intended to help a youth through a difficult transition should think about whether online communication could strengthen their program design or outcomes.

How can mentors best help with post-secondary planning?

This program took a thoughtful approach in how it structured the online activities and mentoring conversations over the 12 weeks of the program. The activities were divided into three sequential topics: Discovering One’s Self, Exploring Possibilities, and Creating an Action Plan. The first activity helped mentees think about their interests, their talents, and their motivations, while the second translated that personal information in to possible paths for life after high school. This allowed mentees to see that their post-secondary life could be connected to things they already care about and build on strengths they already possessed. The third set of activities made those dreams more concrete, by setting short- and long-term action steps and developing a doable plan. Although the program provided a set curriculum that mentors had to use for the weekly lessons, mentors could choose specific activities that they felt best fit their mentee’s personality and goals.

Any program working with high school age youth may want to consider putting together a set of sequential activities that cover those three broad areas. In fact, there are other examples in the field of mentoring programs using mentors in this way: YouthBuild USA provides a module for mentors and youth to do together around post-secondary planning that very much follows these three core areas of personal reflection, future visioning, and concrete planning. Whether in-person or online, this can be a major form of support for any mentor of an older adolescent.

E-mentoring relationships, especially facilitated by schools, need lots of support.

One of the lazy assumptions about e-mentoring is that the relationships, and individuals in them, require less structure and support and that the communication platform itself will spur participation. This program emphasized just the opposite. The researchers behind the program noted how critical it was that they encouraged the college student mentors to write to their mentees, even when the mentee would be negligent in responding or communicating adequately. They also lamented that in some instances a lack of buy-in from the teachers at the school resulted in mentees not receiving enough encouragement to reply to their mentors and even caused some issues around accessing the computer labs to participate in the program as intended.

In fact, the evaluators note that not having a dedicated class or teacher liaison that could facilitate access to the computers may have negatively impacted the strength of the findings here. They conclude that schools should only enter into these kinds of programs if they have a partner organization (such as a university, in this case) that can handle the technology, mentor engagement, and other logistical considerations. They recommend a school liaison that can provide dedicated support to the participating mentees and ensure fuller participation and computer access.

A missed opportunity for understanding…

While this program offered an interesting design and produced some compelling results, it’s hard not to feel like there was a missed opportunity here in the evaluation. The study did not examine whether participating students actually followed through on their post-secondary plans. It would have been interesting to see if the impact of this program was only “on paper” in terms of self-reported competence and development of those transition plans. If those students never acted on or realized those plans, it would certainly put the findings of this study in a different light.

However, it is still impressive that this program was able to get these students with learning disabilities to contemplate and plan for their futures in a way that they might never have without these services. Given the nation’s ongoing struggles with “disconnected” youth, it would be wonderful to see more mentoring programs tasking their mentors with providing targeted and multi-faceted support like this to students who are facing the daunting task of figuring out where they are going in life.

For more information on research-informed program practices and tools for implementation, be sure to consult the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™ and the "Resources for Mentoring Programssection of the National Mentoring Resource Center site.

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