Report from the Summer Institute on Youth Mentoring

As I'm sitting in the last presentation of the 2012 Summer Institute on Youth Mentoring, I'm reflecting on the overall value that this experience has brought to our organization and to me, personally, over the last six years. Tom Keller, the founder of the SIYM at Portland State University, has created an amazing environment for researchers, practitioners, and technical assistance providers to come together and dive into the latest research, straight from the people involved. This year's theme, non-traditional mentoring, has been very interesting for many participants as they consider the basic question after each presentation: is this considered mentoring?

From thinking about mentoring (both as a noun and as a verb) in youth development, school, child welfare, and foster care settings, we have been challenged to not only digest research but the implications of this research. Do the findings from a program that employs and pays mentors applicable to a program with volunteer-only mentors? Can you apply some of the same mentoring-specific techniques and strategies from a program whose focus is academic achievement to an agency that is designed to provide social-emotional support through community-based mentoring, especially for a subset of mentees who want more motivation in school? Can any of us who use a 1:1 or 2:1 model find any benefits from the research on group mentoring? Can mentoring, noun and verb, be beneficial when it addresses only the youth mentee or does it need to respond to a young person's entire environment and society, including institutionalized racism and discrimination?

Heady topics for all of us to be thinking about as we remember what it's like to be back in school, sitting in a classroom from 8 am to about 4:30 or 5 pm, listening to expert researchers discuss their findings. Friends for Youth is grateful to continue to be a provider partner and attend every year. I have made many incredible friendships and professional contacts each year. These connections continue to inspire and motivate me to continue helping programs think through their challenges and strengths and figure out what to do to make more of a difference in the lives of young people.

Click here for more information about the Summer Institute on Youth Mentoring, including Friday's sessions which will be recorded and appear online soon. Thanks to Karen Shaver of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada for forwarding the photo here.


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