The Young People of Rhode Island Have Spoken!

Christopher Margadonna, Mentor Recruitment Specialist at MENTOR Rhode Island
June 30th, 2018
Posted In: Uncategorized

When adults work with youth, too often the adults make the choices; whether choosing activities that are provided by an after-school program or deciding what to do with their mentee during their mentoring session, adults make the decisions. Instead of making choices for kids we need to start making choices with kids. Mentors should begin encouraging kids to develop their own voices and become a part of the conversation. Here at MENTOR Rhode Island, we are doing many things to grant kids at any age level the opportunity to provide input and make decisions.

We know, through the research provided by the Search Institute that Sharing Power is a part of the developmental framework of youth. This framework lays a foundation of how to help children thrive in relationships with adults. The Search Institute uses 4 key components in their framework:

Respect Me: Take me seriously and treat me fairly.

Include Me: Involve me in decisions that affect me.

Collaborate: Work with me to solve problems and reach goals.

Let Me Lead: Create opportunities for me to take action and lead.

Respect Me:

At the elementary level, it can be the hardest to give kids a voice, but if we plant these seeds early in our relationships with youth, it can lead to better decision making and self-advocating in the future. When we train mentors for our school-based mentoring programs, we talk about the proper ways to share power and respect the child in the decisions they make. Some tips for the mentors include:

Letting a child choose what activity they want to do during the mentoring session.

Letting a child pick what question they want to start with on an assignment.

Letting a child pick what book they want to read.

Letting a child pick what day of the week they see their mentor on.

Include Me:

We try our best to match students with mentors who share the same interests and have similar personalities. But, as students get older, they become skeptical of being assigned a stranger to support them. This year, we partnered with New England Basecamp and Summit Learning to create a mentoring program where the kids have a say in who is mentoring them. At Woonsocket Middle School, we matched 20 mentors with kids. These students and mentors were put through various icebreakers and voted on with whom they would be paired. Including students in the decision made the mentoring pairs stronger from the beginning. As a result, we have 19 out of 20 mentoring pairs continuing next year.

Collaborate:

Two years ago, Rhode Island launched a workforce development program called P-TECH. P-TECH schools are designed to accelerate students through high school and college so that they can be trained and ready for employment.

The best part is students are matched with a mentor from the beginning of the program. MENTOR RI works very closely with three programs throughout the state, providing technical assistance through the National Mentoring Resource Center. Any student in any school district can choose to be a part of a P-TECH program; giving students the agency to help better prepare for their future career.

Let Me Lead:

Through our partnership with the Community College of Rhode Island, we have introduced a Youth Initiated Mentoring Initiative. Youth Initiated Mentoring enables students to use a series of techniques to find a mentor that can help them further their success. We train college advisors and staff to be able to better assist students through this process. The college is providing students opportunities to lead in their future success by allowing them to find their own mentors.

Youth voice is important now more than ever. We need to work with kids to help them strive for a better and brighter future. We need to learn that kids have something to offer and if we just hand them the microphone they will rise to the occasion and shine!

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