Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mentoring: One Size Fits ALL? No.

I've been connected to MENTOR, the National Mentoring Partnership since 1995, before they were THE partnership. I've followed the growth of mentor support networks in many cities, and today received the announcement of the launch of the National Mentoring Resource Center hosted by MENTOR and funded by OJJDP.

I've been trying to use visualizations, like the one below, to show that while every youth needs a mentor, youth living in high poverty areas of big cities need mentors, and a lot more that volunteers can help bring to a youth and his/her neighborhood.

The new Resource Center has a What is Mentoring page. I wish it, along with MENTOR and others who focus on mentoring as part of a strategy to improve the well-being of youth and adults, would create a graphic like the one above, that shows the different types of mentoring, and then shows strategies that focus more narrowly on those types of mentoring.

During the Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference last week I encouraged people to do a Google search for the words "tutor mentor" then look at the images. Then do the same for MENTOR, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and any other well known mentoring strategy you know of.

Do the same for the word "tutor".

I'm the only one who seems to be focusing on mentoring as part of a set of actions that help youth move from first grade through school and into jobs, or at least the only one providing visualizations to illustrate how long this takes and how funding and leadership needs to be provided for many years, not just one to three year grant cycles.

I'm also one of the few who consistently uses maps to illustrate that constantly improving, growing, programs need to be reaching youth in every high poverty area of a city. If MENTOR would create it's own set of graphics, perhaps we could begin to build a conversation that focuses on the different needs of kids, based on where they live, and based on what other needs they have.

Instead of saying "Mentoring Works" we should be saying "Mentoring works for specific groups of young people and adults if the right strategy is in place."

This is not intended as a criticism of MENTOR or any other mentoring organization. I wrote this Defining Terms essay almost 15 years ago with the same goal in mind.

I'm sure others could create a better visualization of the different types of mentoring needed, as well as the different strategies that work best for different populations. If someone already has done this, please share.

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