The future of mentoring: An infographic

by Jean Rhodes

I recently worked with a talented team at the MacArthur Foundation Connected Learning Research Network to develop an infographic on youth mentoring (below). In essence, I argue that the number of Americans willing to serve as volunteer mentors has remained remarkably stable over the past decade — between 2 million and 2.5 million, or around 1% of the adult population (Raposa et al., 2016). Given this stable but modest rate, we should ensure that volunteer mentors are well equipped to handle the needs of youth exposed to increasingly high levels of stress. This means moving from more free wheeling, one-size-fits-all approaches to evidence-based approaches that are designed to meet the differing needs and circumstances of different populations of youth. Just as you wouldn’t go to the same physician for your allergies as for your back pain, you shouldn’t think of a volunteer mentors as a jack of all trades. Instead, we need to extract more out of the men and women who are willing to give up their precious time in the service of strangers—and we can only do this by training them to better meet the particular needs of their mentees. 

In addition, however, we must explore avenues for supporting youth in building healthy social networks with the caring adults in their everyday lives. Youth who can identify at least one supportive adult within their social networks have been shown to have better outcomes across a range of important academic, behavioral, and health domains. Fortunately, natural mentoring relationships are relatively common. Indeed, about 75% of youth say they have a mentor. On the face of it, this high percentage seems to suggest that young people are perfectly adept at enlisting support from non-parental adults. Yet, with classroom overcrowding, class-based segregation, and diminishing public support for extracurricular programs and enrichment activities, opportunities for extended interaction between youth and caring adults have diminished, and it is the youth in the bottom income sectors who suffer the most. While wealthier families have been able to compensate for these changes with private sources of support and enrichment, poorer families have fewer resources to invest. Although they often stand to gain the most, youth from the lowest SES quartile are least likely to endorse having a natural mentor. This unequal distribution of natural mentoring relationships serves to compound socioeconomic disadvantage (Raposa, Erickson, Hagler, & Rhodes, 2017).

If we are serious about redressing social inequality, we need to do more to connect low-income youth with a range of caring adults who can help them invent and achieve a promising future. Mentoring initiatives should be broadened to scaffold young people’s ability to recruit caring adults, and new approaches are showing promise. In the Youth-Initiated Mentoring (YIM) approach, youth nominate adults to serve as their mentors, selecting from among the adults who are already in their social networks (Schwartz et al., 2013). In an extension of this approach, typically used with high school and college students, the Connected Scholars Program actively supports students in cultivating a network of supportive adults, rather than a single mentoring relationship (Schwartz, et al., 2015). Likewise, Intentional Mentoring (IM) approaches seek to increase the availability of caring adults who serve as mentors for all youth. 

Posted in: Editors Blog

5 Comments on "The future of mentoring: An infographic"

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  1. Justin Preston says:

    Hello everyone,

    For those who would like to view the infographic for this article in a PDF format, please go to:

    Thank you for reading and participating in the Chronicle community!

  2. Nameti Akpan says:

    A great article. Well worded,well researched and well written.Mentorship is a neccessary reqiurement for youths today. Conscious efforts should be taken at making sure that that role is played with an intention to meet the mentees’ needs.I strongly believe that with this in mind mentors can fulfil their role of inspiring excellent and meaningful living.Keep up the good work.

  3. Howard Perry says:

    Thanks for sharing this information. Our organization has been using a class room based mentoring program for young men of color using Growth Mindset techniques. We started in 2008 to present. Our graduates have awesome success; College graduates, Military careers, Entrepreneurs, and much more.
    Any ideas on funding, grants for program. 100 Black Men of Long Beach inc. (501c3)

  4. Robin Cox says:

    A great article and I concur with so much of this thinking. A school-based mentoring program I was involved with a few years ago, in a low socio-economic area, had an amazing impact on the school community. Volunteer adult mentors were seen coming into the school every week, the mentees were buzzing with excitement, many started moving in positive directions and making sound choices as they learned the art of goal setting and looking after themselves mentally, physically, socially etc. Other students in the School approached us asking if they could have a mentor as well. All the mentors received thorough training and ongoing support/training. ‘Ideally’, it would be great to see a ‘National’ global initiative funded by governments with a Staff member/Community Officer in each school facilitating the program. This would be cheaper than the cost of funding juvenile delinquents and others who fall over for a variety of reasons and communities can be transformed.

    • Here in the UK the next generation face both physical health and emotional wellbeing challenges. Our education system does not help resolve many of these problems as overworked teachers have to focus on their pupils producing ever improving exam grades. The pupil data gets more attention than the pupils.

      Evolve: A Social Impact company is a social enterprise working to support children to reach their potential.

      Our primary school programme, Project HE:RO (Health Engagement: Real Outcomes), is based on the proven research that by boosting health and wellbeing education attainment is improved.

      The key to the success of Project HERO is the embedding of Evolve Health Mentors into schools. These young, dynamic and positive role models are carefully selected and uniquely trained, initially on a bespoke Level 4 course delivered in conjunction with Newman University.. This September sees the launch of a Master’s Degree in Health Mentoring, via worked based learning, again with Newman University.
      Our children deserve much better support with their physical and mental health. They also need a more child centred approach to education.

      At Evolve we hope to show, and prove by our impact measurement, that there is another, better way, to support children improve their health and education, in schools and beyond, and thereby bring about other gains in terms of healthcare costs, employment readiness and to the Justice system.

      While volunteers can play a useful role in supporting children there is a vital need for them to be trained accordingly and their impact must be quality assured.

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