National Mentoring Resource Center Blog

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Building Positive Relationships by Being Present

APRIL 6, 2016

Feel your feet on the floor. Listen closely to scuffling shoes. See something really small.

I recently asked over 100 people in the closing session of the recent Mentoring Symposium hosted by Gonzaga University in Washington State to feel, hear, and see purposefully. I even hinted that this practice might actually be a key to the critical work they do with young people. But why?

I would like to provide a little background for why I asked the mentors and program staff to feel, hear, and see consciously. I’ll also provide some starter mindfulness exercises that you can practice, share with mentors and youth, and bring into your own work.

 Janet Heubach, Ph.D., Deputy Director, Mentoring Works Washington 

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Research Alert: New Study on Mentoring Inside Adult Prisons May Be Meaningful for Juvenile Re-entry Services

MARCH 16, 2016

Editor’s note: From time to time on the NMRC Blog we will cross-post announcements about new research studies on mentoring drawing from the research listserv run by NMRC Research Board Chair Dr. David DuBois. Today we offer a quick glance at a new study on community visits by mentors to people during their incarceration, something we also see being applied to juvenile detainees in programs across the country. Dr. DuBois writes:

I was just reading this morning some very interesting and well-done research on effects of community volunteer visits on reoffending of incarcerated adults, in which visits by community volunteers—specifically clergy and mentors—were linked convincingly to lower rates of reoffending. This offers good evidence to support this type of strategy with youth offenders, as well as with incarcerated parents of youth who are being mentored—a double mentoring strategy, if you will.

The study abstract notes that the “effect on recidivism grew as the proportion of CV [community volunteer] visits to all visits increased. The findings suggest CV visits should be conceptualized as a programming resource to be used with higher risk offenders who lack social support.” The NMRC will be posting an evidence review here on the site soon for mentoring juvenile offenders that will also examine their re-entry outcomes. But this is yet another contribution to the growing literature that supports the idea that mentoring beyond (and, in this case, within) prison walls can have meaningful impacts for communities.

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School-Based Peer Mentoring: A Powerful Tool to Help Close the Mentoring Gap

MARCH 1, 2016

MENTOR's landmark 2014 report, The Mentoring Effect, uncovered a significant national phenomenon known as the “mentoring gap”:


Recent research suggests that even if we could double the current number of volunteer adult mentors, programs would still be reaching less than 10% of the young people in need. Researcher Jean Rhodes concludes, “Although volunteer mentoring will always have a vital role to play in the lives of children, the sum total of our individual acts of kindness will never compensate for the kinds of systemic changes that are also needed.” At the Center for Supportive Schools (CSS), we suggest the widespread activation of young people as peer mentors within schools as a powerful systemic change with great potential to help close this gap.

 School-Based Mentoring

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January is National Human Trafficking Awareness and National Mentoring Month

JANUARY 21, 2016

Reflections on the Power of Mentoring with Survivors of Abuse and Exploitation

My name is Karen Countryman-Roswurm and I am the Founder and Executive Director of Wichita State University’s Center for Combating Human Trafficking (CCHT). CCHT provides direct survivor-centered services, education, training, consultation, research, and advocacy/public policy services. From facilitating prevention groups with at-risk youth to providing advocacy services to survivors of human trafficking, and from providing training on our Lotus Anti-Trafficking ModelTM to assisting in the development of law or policy, CCHT staff are committed to 1) preventing human trafficking 2) intentionally and effectively intervening in situations of trafficking and 3) promoting holistic prosperity among survivors. All of these efforts require relationships.

With National Human Trafficking Awareness Month as well as National Mentoring Month upon us, I have been spending additional time reflecting on the power of relationship. What has relationship meant in my life? What types of relationships or relationship dynamics have been the most helpful in my personal and professional development? Throughout my professional experiences of providing direct-services, as well as providing training and technical assistance (TTA) to Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) grantees and other providers around the country, what have I learned about the power of relationship in the lives of those who are at risk of or who have been subjected to human trafficking? What I do know is this—it is because of committed adults who were willing to step outside of themselves and pour into my life that I am the woman I am today.

Exposed to trauma at an early age due to neglect, abuse, addiction, and divorce, my life took a turn for the worst at the age of thirteen when my mother committed suicide. Without extended family supports, I spent the next three years as a displaced youth—in and out of various foster and group homes and more often than not, as a runaway and homeless youth. During this time I was alone. I felt hopeless. I often acted out of desperation.

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Understanding Group Formation is Key to Successful Group Mentoring

JANUARY 18, 2016

Editor’s note: This week we are excited to be releasing the first in our series of publications exploring the research evidence on mentoring in certain program models or for certain populations. Dr. Gabe Kuperminc of our Research Board has authored a summary of what we know, and where we need more research, on group mentoring models. To supplement his evidence review, we’ve asked an experienced practitioner, Vida Sanford of Project Arrive/Mentoring for Success, to share her thoughts about what makes group mentoring effective and how practitioners can help their groups thrive.

I was recently at a meeting of mentoring program professionals where everyone in attendance was involved in running traditional one-to-one mentoring programs, except for me. During lunch, someone asked me about the program I work with. I explained that I manage a school-based group mentoring program in San Francisco called Mentoring For Success: Project Arrive, designed to support 9th grade students who had struggled academically and socially in middle school. The colleague replied "I tried to run a group once or twice. I couldn't get them to do anything. They wouldn't stay on topic, they did whatever they wanted, talked over each other and didn't listen to anything I said. I had no idea what I was in for."

I knew exactly what she meant. It's hard to run a good group! When San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) received funding from OJJDP in 2010 to pilot a group mentoring program for students with truancy issues, we struggled to find viable research and resources to guide us on how to train and coach group mentors to lead effective groups. Nevertheless, we remained confident that a successful group mentoring experience could bring many unique benefits to students that SFUSD’s established one-to-one model could not.

Project Arrive forged ahead and we have learned a lot along the way, especially around the importance of group formation when developing a group mentoring program, one in which participants feel a sense of belonging, connection, and trust. Creating cohesive, connected and purposeful groups, especially for high-energy adolescents, doesn't happen without time and effort. Group mentors need to be trained on the same principles and practices that apply to 1:1 mentoring, but they also require additional awareness and understanding of the process of group formation and dynamics to better understand and address what is happening within their group at a given point in time.

In attempting to develop meaningful training content for our mentors, psychologist Bruce Tuckman's simple and memorable phrase "forming, storming, norming, and performing" is both useful and accessible to mentors, especially those who don't have a clinical or social work background. He described the 4-stage path that most teams follow on their way to high performance, and later added a fifth stage, "adjourning". We have found these to be highly applicable to the context of school-based group mentoring and offer some suggestions here about how mentors can support their groups in moving successfully through each stage.

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