January 31, 2023, Durham, NC – Most mentees participating in a youth mentoring program are signed up to participate by one or more of their parents, and if you ask them, what they will get out of being a mentee in a mentoring program or what a mentor does or what to expect, they often tell you that they have no idea. The Building the Foundation for Mentees workshop was developed to fill this gap in knowledge in youth, as well as to build their interest and motivation to participate. Without proper knowledge about what it means to have a mentoring relationship, mentees may feel apprehensive about being enrolled in a mentoring program. Providing training to mentees about what to expect in a mentoring relationship, the roles and responsibilities of mentors, and the ways the mentee can positively contribute to building a close, positive mentoring relationship can help youth feel more motivated to participate and more skilled in building a stronger, more helpful relationship with a caring volunteer adult.

iRT scientists, Drs. Rebecca Stelter and Janis Kupersmidt, received funding from the NIH to develop and evaluate a web-based, youth-informed, interactive training course to educate mentees about what to expect if they participate in a mentoring relationship. This training, Building the Foundation for Mentees, informs youth about the benefits of being a mentee, what types of things they may do with their mentor, what mentoring is and what a mentor does, what roles and responsibilities mentees have, and how to prepare to meet with their mentor for the first time.

Listening to and understanding the voices of the individuals directly involved in the mentoring relationship was a top priority for these investigators, so that they would create a resource for mentoring program staff that would be relevant and impactful for their mentees. Before creating the program, focus groups were conducted with mentees, parents or guardians of mentees, and mentoring program staff. Both parents and mentees noted the positive impact of the mentoring experience on the mentee. Mentees spoke about their responsibilities as a mentee such as how they can be respectful of their mentor’s time and the value of being open to trying new activities and experiences with their mentor. Mentees also mentioned questions they had about mentoring, such as not knowing exactly what to do if their mentor wants to do something they do not want to do. Mentoring program staff described strategies they use to engage mentees in the mentoring program.

Despite the fact that the online version of the training was positively received by program staff and mentees, program staff wanted to offer the workshop in an instructor-led, live format. Based upon this request from many mentoring programs, the course was modified and updated for delivery as a live workshop.

The new, instructor-led Building the Foundation for Mentees training workshop will take from 30 – 45 minutes to conduct with the workshop length varying based upon the size of the group, depth of discussions, and the number of questions that are asked. The virtual kit includes a downloadable PDF of a trainer’s manual that is licensed to each trainer, a multimedia presentation that can be accessed on the Mentoring Central website, and a downloadable PDF of the mentee workbook that can be printed for each mentee. The workshop materials were designed using a comic book style that includes developmentally appropriate content, so that the workshop would appeal to students ranging from elementary through high school. The workshop includes videotapes of testimonials from mentees as well as role-playing scenarios to develop and practice actionable skills to enhance the mentoring relationship experiences.

iRT provides various training courses for parents, mentees, and mentors to keep all participants informed and build skills throughout the mentoring relationship. Visit mentoringcentral.net to explore iRT’s collection of courses and workshops to meet the needs of your mentoring program!