S.A.G.E. (Senior Adults for Greater Education)
In the spirit of fostering meaningful and multi-generational relationships, Senior Adults for Greater Education (S.A.G.E.) is a mentoring program that pairs youth with seniors during a regular school day. S.A.G.E. mentors are encouraged to develop strong relationships with teachers and students in the classroom, and for partnered schools, the mentors are a huge asset when it comes to learning and classroom management. Through the program, youth get the chance to develop a connection with an older person, and receive their attention, wisdom, and guidance in the classroom. At the same time, senior mentors are able to be more involved with their community, create lasting friendships, and play a meaningful role in the education system. “Youth benefit from the program by getting the assistance of a non-judgmental older person, and older people get to pass on life experience and guidance,” says Executive Director Beryl Katz.
Like every mentoring program in the U.S., S.A.G.E. has faced significant challenges brought on by COVID-19. Many programs have managed to seamlessly transition to a virtual format, but when it comes to older adult technology users, there is more of a learning curve to address when using certain platforms and devices. As such, S.A.G.E. sought out technical assistance through the OJJDP National Mentoring Resource Center (NMRC) to support their programming by ensuring that mentors receive proper training and guidance on computer skills along with the virtual platforms that schools are using, such as Zoom and Google Meet. As Katz explained, “We wanted to craft a great training that [encompassed] an understanding of our mission and our program.”
It was important to Katz that the technical assistance provider help create accessible trainings for senior mentors, despite some possible challenges with understanding newer technology. The TA provider, Charlie Hall from MENTOR Independence Region, made this part of his mission as well. “My job was really about demystifying everything, and putting technology into bins so that people could wrap their heads around it,” he says. In the process, Hall put together several trainings and documents related to the computer programs used by the school system with extensive collaboration and feedback from Katz. He helped the mentors to understand that many of the video chatting apps used for classrooms are essentially different versions of the same thing. In order for mentors to help youth more effectively, he encouraged mentors to have a basic awareness of websites that students use to receive and turn in assignments, to communicate with their teachers, and more.
Since the virtual environment comes with its own challenges and etiquette requirements, Hall also saw a need to help the senior mentors gain an awareness about best practices for online interactions within his trainings, so he worked to flesh out these guidelines as they were described by the school system and by teachers. Despite the turbulence of these past few months in preparing for the 2020-2021 school year, S.A.G.E. and their TA provider were able to create an adaptive set of trainings that are aimed at people without much experience with technology. Now, S.A.G.E. is able to run its programming effectively online and continue its mission of connecting senior mentors with youth.
MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR) partners with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to deliver the National Mentoring Resource Center (NMRC) to the mentoring field. In addition to convening a Research Board which develops evidence-based reviews about mentoring topics, and offering a comprehensive mentoring resource center website, the NMRC provides mentoring programs nationwide with the opportunity to request and receive no-cost technical assistance to help them more deeply incorporate evidence-based practices into their programming. Once a mentoring program requests technical assistance, their request is assigned to a local or regional technical assistance provider within MENTOR's network of state and local affiliates and TA providers. New and emerging mentoring programs may benefit from technical assistance to help them design and implement programs that meet quality standards as outlined in the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™, while existing or established programs may utilize TA to improve operations, assess impact, or adapt their program to changing or emerging community needs.