Young People as Collaborators in Mentoring

June 30th, 2020
Posted In: Uncategorized

Sydney Adams, NMRC Consultant 

Currently, population reviews on the National Mentoring Resource Center (NMRC) exist as “an attempt to answer key questions about mentoring’s effectiveness, participant characteristics and program processes that influence that effectiveness, and successful implementation of relevant programs to date.” These reviews end with an “Implications for Practice” section that highlights practical steps mentoring programs can take to better serve specific populations, which are extremely useful for practitioners, mentors, and program staff. As I was reading these reviews, I noticed there was a lack of input from the youth who are regarded as the subject of these reviews. When young people are thought of as the subjects of mentoring, rather than collaborators, there becomes this sense of ostracization that diminishes their input and roles as practitioners, leaders, and organizers, themselves. Youth-serving organizations who do not consult young people on the effects of their programming risk creating program models that are no longer youth-serving. The language of the current population reviews remains geared toward adults in the mentoring field. This language has the potential to alienate young people because if organizations do not regard this material as geared toward youth, they will not include them in discussions about research that occurs in the mentoring field.

From these observations, I worked to condense the Mentoring LGBTQI-GNC Youth Population Review and created the “Mentoring LGBTQI-GNC Youth: A Quick Guide.” This summarized version allows for the information presented in the review to be more widely distributed. My recommendation for practitioners and mentors is to present this document to youth in their organization and engage in the document with them—hold spaces for discussion, implement this in the curriculum of your programming. I believe that is not the inaccessibility of the language that prevents young people from contributing to the field, rather it is the lack of support they receive when engaging with these materials. Introducing young people to mentoring research can foster interest and allow them to dive deeper into the work. This not only diminish the sentiment of youth as subjects, but it will also further the coalition between youth and adults as collaborators in mentoring.

There is still the issue of the “Implications for Practice” section, which remains largely geared towards mentors and mentoring practitioners. In response, I created a document titled, “Implications for Youth Practice.” This second document gives young people the opportunity to learn about their role in mentoring organizations and how they can leverage their voice as young people. Often, due to a lack of resources, many young people in mentoring relationships do not know how to maximize the relationship between themselves and their mentor or organization. Young people are unaware of the operations of their organization and the power, control, and voice they have within these organizations. The document gives actionable, tangible steps for a young person to take in the organization to better support themselves and their peers in the LGBTQI-GNC community.

Both of these documents combine the two groups—youth and adults— essential to the practice of mentoring. Uplifting youth to a status that is equal to adults, while also allowing them to take actions into their own hands, strengthens relationships and expands the mentoring field.

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