Youth who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and especially young adults of transition age, should be involved in planning for life after high school as early as possible and no later than age 16. Transition services should stem from the individual youth’s needs and strengths, ensuring that planning takes into account his or her interests, preferences, and desires for the future.
Benefits of Mentoring for Young People
Mentoring is often one component of a program that involves other elements, such as tutoring or life skills training and coaching. The supportive, healthy relationships formed between mentors and mentees are both immediate and long-term and contribute to a host of benefits for mentors and mentees.
Benefits for youth:
- Increased high school graduation rates
- Lower high school dropout rates
- Healthier relationships and lifestyle choices
- Better attitude about school
- Higher college enrollment rates and higher educational aspirations
- Enhanced self-esteem and self-confidence
- Improved behavior, both at home and at school
- Stronger relationships with parents, teachers, and peers
- Improved interpersonal skills
- Decreased likelihood of initiating drug and alcohol use (MENTOR, 2009; Cavell, DuBois, Karcher, Keller, & Rhodes, 2009)
Better academic performance. A 1995 study of the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) program found mentored youth earned higher grades than a similar group of young people who did not have mentors (Tierny, Grossman, & Resch, 1995). Further, the 2007 study of the program found youth in school-based mentoring programs turned in higher quality class work, did better academically (especially in science and written and oral communication), and completed more of their assignments than their peers who did not have mentors. These results, while positive, were small in magnitude and did not last into the following school year (Herrera, Grossman, Kauh, Feldman, McMaken, & Jucovy, 2007). While a trend toward improved academic performance has been found through research on mentoring programs, Jekielek, Moore and Hair (2002) indicate that studies of mentoring programs do not show consistent improved academic outcomes.
Better school attendance. Youth with mentors had fewer unexcused absences from class than students without mentors (Tierny, Grossman, Resch, 2000; Herrera, Grossman, Kauh, Feldman, McMaken, & Jucovy, 2007). For example, youth participating in the Across Ages mentoring program showed a gain of more than a week of classes attended, compared with those youth not participating in the program (Jekielek et al., 2002).
Positive attitudes. Teachers of students in the BELONG mentoring program reported that students participating in mentoring were more engaged in the classroom and also seemed to place a higher value on school than students who did not have mentors (Blakely, Menon, & Jones, 1995).
Decreased likelihood of initiating illegal drug and alcohol use. A BBBS study showed youth with mentors were less likely to begin using drugs or alcohol during the eighteen-month period of the study than their peers. Specifically, 6.2 percent of youth with mentors initiated drug use compared to 11.4 percent of their peers without mentors, and 19.4 percent initiated alcohol use compared to 26.7 percent. These findings were more substantial for minority youth (Tierny et al., 1995). Findings from a study of the Across Ages mentoring program showed that mentees gained important life skills to help them stay away from drugs (LoSciuto, Rajala, Townsend, & Taylor, 1996).
Decreased violent behavior. Mentees in the BBBS program were 32 percent less likely to report having hit someone over the past year than the young people without mentors (Tierny et al., 1995). Jekielek et al. (2002) found that four mentoring programs showed reductions of some behaviors related to delinquency and negative behaviors, but did not eliminate all delinquent behaviors.
Mentoring has also been linked in studies to social-emotional development benefits, improvements in youth perceptions of parental relationships, and better prospects for moving on to higher education.
This section has been adapted from Federal Mentoring Council and Jekielek, Moore, & Hair, 2002.
Benefits for mentors:
- Increased self-esteem
- A sense of accomplishment
- Creation of networks of volunteers
- Insight into childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood
- Increased patience and improved supervisory skills (U.S. Department of Labor, n.d.)
Mentoring can help youth as they go through challenging life transitions, including dealing with stressful changes at home or transitioning to adulthood. Close, healthy, supportive relationships between mentors and mentees that last for a significant portion of time (i.e., more than one year) are central to success. Without this, mentoring programs run the risk of harming young people who are paired with mentors ill-equipped to meet the mentees' needs. Specifically, relationships with mentors that last less than three months; where there is irregular and inconsistent contact; where there is a disconnect between the personalities, interests, and expectations of the mentors and mentees; where mentors are unprepared and lack skills to relate to youth; and where there is no emotional bond between the mentor and mentee have been found to be harmful to youth (Jekielek et al., 2002; Rhodes & DuBois, 2006).
Blakely, C. H., Menon, R., & Jones, D. J. (1995). Project BELONG: Final report. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University, Public Policy Research Institute. (PDF, 2 pages)
Cavell, T., DuBois, D., Karcher, M., Keller, T., & Rhodes, J. (2009). Strengthening mentoring opportunities for at-risk youth. Retrieved from http://www.mentoring.org/downloads/mentoring_1233.pdf (PDF, 4 pages)
Jekielek, S., Moore K. A., & Hair, E. C. (2002). Mentoring programs and youth development: A synthesis. Washington, DC: Child Trends. Retrieved from http://www.mentorwalk.org/documents/mentoring-synthesis.pdf (PDF, 68 pages)
Herrera, C., Grossman, J. B., Kauh, T. J., Feldman, A. F., McMaken, J., & Jucovy L. Z. (2007). Making a difference in schools: The Big Brothers Big Sisters school-based mentoring impact study. Public/Private Ventures. Retrieved from http://files.bigsister.org/file/Making-a-Difference-in-Schools.pdf (PDF, 148 pages)
LoSciuto, L., Rajala, A. K., Townsend, T. N., Taylor, A. S. (1996). An outcome evaluation of across ages: An intergenerational mentoring approach to drug prevention. Journal of Adolescent Research, 11(1), 116-129.
MENTOR. (2009). Elements of effective practice in mentoring. Third Edition. Retrieved from http://www.mentoring.org/downloads/mentoring_1222.pdf (PDF, 20 pages)
Rhodes, J. & DuBois, D.L. (2006) Understanding and facilitating youth mentoring. Social Policy Report: Giving Child and Youth Development Knowledge Away. Retrieved from http://www.srcd.org/sites/default/files/documents/20-3_youth_mentoring.pdf (PDF, 20 pages)
Tierney, J. P., Grossman, J. B., & Resch, N. L. (1995). Making a difference: An impact study of Big Brothers Big Sisters. Public/Private Venture. (PDF, 71 pages)
U.S. Department of Labor. Office of Disability Employment Policy. (n.d.). Cultivating leadership: Mentoring youth with disabilities. Retrieved from http://www.dol.gov/odep/pubs/fact/cultivate.htm
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