A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Yes, You Can: A Guide for Establishing Mentoring Programs to Prepare Youth for College--October 1998

Section 2:
Guidelines for Mentoring Programs

First Steps: Program Planning

Beginning--The First Stages of Program Development

Mentoring programs, like any successful partnership, are designed to achieve the goals and objectives of the people involved. More so than other types of programs, mentoring programs must consider the needs and goals of several constituencies--the students who will be mentored and their families, the mentors themselves, the schools, partner organizations who may contribute volunteers or resources, and the community in general. Because mentoring programs are built on shared trust and respect, they require careful planning and time to develop, implement, and evaluate.

The following points should be considered during the beginning of program development:

After a school, business, or community organization has considered the need for the program, the population to be served, and the person or organization that will initiate the program, the next step is to design a complete and comprehensive plan for the program. The procedures that follow are based in part on guidelines developed by the National Association of Partners in Education, a nonprofit organization in Alexandria, Virginia, which has had extensive expertise in all facets of school-community and school-business partnership programs.

Mentoring as a Network of Support

Mentoring may occur either as natural mentoring, when a sustained relationship develops naturally between a coach, teacher, neighbor, or other adult and a youth, or as planned mentoring, when a relationship is purposefully created to help a youth who may otherwise not have the access he or she needs to the wisdom and support of a caring adult (Dennis, 1993).

In the past, youth may have been more likely to come into contact with a greater number of natural mentors who played a vital, though perhaps unrecognized, role in their development. Many researchers today advocate using team mentoring, and creating mentor-rich environments, whereby youth can be exposed to several mentors on a regular basis. In this way, youth not only have greater access to mentors, and in more facets of their lives, but the time commitment and pressure on an individual mentor may be reduced. In fact, in many mentoring programs, youth form valuable, natural, mentoring relationships not only with their assigned mentors, but with the program staff and directors with whom they are in regular contact (Freedman, 1996).

Tripartite mentoring is a further innovative approach to mentoring in which, in addition to the usual adult-youth relationship, the mentored youth also serves as a mentor to a younger child. In this way, not only is the valuable resource of having a mentor extended to an additional youth, but the older youth has the experience of both being mentored and of being a mentor him or herself (Freedman, 1996). Such an experience can build understanding and acceptance of the role of the mentor, as well as develop a greater sense of self-esteem, foster responsibility, and encourage involvement in the community. Of course, just as the relationship between the youth and their adult mentor must be supervised, a similar system of monitoring and support should be in place for older youth serving as mentors to younger children.

Coordinating the Program Planning

Programs should begin by building awareness among key stakeholders in the community. Doing so early on will foster "buy-in" and commitment from groups and individuals that are critical to the program's success and will help to identify potential members of the core planning team.

When creating a planning team, it is important to remember to involve representatives of all stakeholders from the very beginning. This may include parents of the students who will be mentored, teachers and principals, or the students themselves. The planning team will define what type of mentoring the program will provide, become aware of other efforts and resources that are currently available, explain the need for mentoring in their community, and identify the potential benefits of the program for all stakeholders. Ensuring that all stakeholder groups are represented on the planning team will help to maintain the trust and involvement of these groups with the program.

Large mentoring programs may have planning teams with members selected by the superintendent of schools, college or university presidents, chief executive officers (CEOs) of corporations, or presidents of civic organizations. Small programs should also have a team in place. Solid leadership is important for ensuring that the planning team works effectively. Experts in partnership organization report that the most successful teams have leaders who-

As the program progresses, the planning team will be responsible for every aspect of the program, from its inception to its evaluation. The team gets support from schools and the community; decides the purpose of the program; formulates the goals and objectives; allocates funds; writes the mentor role descriptions; appoints program staff; takes responsibility for recruiting, training, retaining, and rewarding the mentors; and regularly informs all stakeholders of the program's progress.

Assessing Needs and Potential Resources

Any school or organization that wants to develop a mentoring program should conduct an assessment to determine why the program is needed, what the school or organization hopes to gain for its students and the types of resources that will be needed to meet these needs. A thorough assessment of needs and resources is essential for determining exactly what the mentor program should--and can--look like.

Assessments can be done through questionnaires, conducting interviews, by talking and observing, and by examining data on student behavior, attendance, or achievement. The questions used in a needs assessment should be asked of members of each group of stakeholders and should reflect the needs of the students, the school or community wishing to have a mentoring program, and the program's sponsors. The following questions are examples of the kinds that should be asked in a school-based mentoring program, but many are more generally applicable. For example:

Once it has been determined that a mentoring program is needed, an equally important step is resource assessment: What will the partners and the community be able to provide to the program? Program planners should think broadly in terms of all types of resources, including: human, financial, time, materials, and facilities, to name a few. Perhaps the most important question for any program to ask is, are there existing efforts which this program could complement or build upon? Other important questions a program sponsor should ask include:

It is important to note that the answers to many of these questions depend largely upon the needs of the program. For example, a middle school mentoring program focused on math skills and preparation for college may look very different from a mentoring program that has the arts as a focus. The information collected from the needs assessment determines why the program is to be established, which population will be served, how many and what kind of mentors will be required, and what resources will be available from program partners and the community. Once this information has been collected, the next step is to develop concrete goals and objectives for the program.

New Technologies, New Opportunities:
The HP E-mail Mentoring Program

The HP E-mail Mentoring Program is an example of the innovative ways in which new technology can be employed by a caring organization to overcome the barriers of time and space to provide help to needy students. Created and funded by the Hewlett-Packard Company, the HP E-mail Mentoring Program strives to improve mathematics and science achievement among 5th through 12th grade students, increase the number of females and minorities studying and teaching mathematics and science, and ensure that all children are ready to learn when they attend school.

Working in a one-to-one telementoring relationship made possible by e-mail, students and HP employee mentors collaborate on classroom activities such as science projects and mathematics lessons, under the direction of a supervising classroom teacher. Teachers are the critical hub of the program, and apply for admission to the program on behalf of their students. Teachers must submit a lesson plan for the student and mentor to work on together (and on which the student will receive a grade), and act as the primary supervisor of the mentor-student relationship. The teacher and students must have appropriate Internet and e-mail access.

Students who are selected by their teachers to participate are directed to the HP Mentoring Program website, where they complete a student application and pre-survey. Mentors for the program are HP employees from around the world who have submitted an online mentor application to HP Mentor Program staff. Mentors are responsible for communicating with the student at least 2-3 times per week throughout the 36-week academic period. As a condition of participation, mentors agree to be a positive role model; encourage their students to excel in math and science; use appropriate grammar and effective communication skills; encourage their students to use the Internet as a resource; and correspond with the student's teacher and HP Mentor Program staff. The HP Mentor Program staff match students and mentors based on a set of specific needs, common career interests, academic studies, and hobbies. The focus of the program is that students and mentors work on solid projects that are integrated into the curriculum.

Since being founded in January of 1995, nearly 2,900 students in school districts throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, and France and 2,900 mentors throughout the world have participated in the program. (Mentors from Australia, Canada, Cyprus Republic, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States have served in the program.) Approximately one-half of the students served in the program have been non-white (approximately one-third African American, Hispanic, and Asian-Pacific Islander, each). Costs are minimal and are limited to basic administrative expenditures along with e-mail and Internet related expenditures. Teachers have indicated many positive results, including increases in student attendance; use of technology; involvement at school; self-confidence; and motivation. HP's full evaluation report can be accessed via the Internet at: http://www.telementor.org/hp/eval/eval9697.html.

Developing the Program's Goals and Objectives

For a mentoring program to be successful, it must have well-defined goals and measurable objectives. Members of the planning team should use the information from the needs assessment to set realistic program goals that reflect the purpose of the program. Once the goals are set, measurable objectives must be formulated so that the program can be evaluated.

Clear goals should be agreed upon by the school, business, or community partners participating in the program. A goal or mission statement should be written by the planning team. Although each party may have a different reason for participating in a program, all should agree on the overall purpose. Here are some examples of different program goals:

For each goal there should be a series of objectives. Objectives should be concrete, specific, and measurable, stating how the goal will be accomplished, including how much time is involved and how many mentors will be needed for a given number of young people. It is important that objectives be designed so that they can be met early on, in the middle, and at the end of the program. Here are some sample objectives:

By keeping goals clear and having measurable objectives, program planners can tell very early in the program whether any of the goals or objectives, or the program's practices, should be modified in order for the program to achieve success.

Putting Needs and Solutions Together:
Recruiting Young Women to the Fields of Mathematics and Science

Table 1
Percent of degrees overall and in selected fields awarded to women, 1994-1995





All Fields




Computer and information sciences




Engineering, engineering-related technologies




Physical sciences and science technologies




Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, Digest of Education Statistics, 1997

Addressing the underrepresentation of women in mathematics and science-related academic programs and careers (see Table 1) is a focus of many mentoring programs. With a grant from the National Science Foundation, the Education Development Center, Inc. led a three-year project called Telementoring Young Women in Science, Engineering, and Computing to build on-line communities of support among female high school students, parents, teachers, and professional women who have succeeded in science and technical fields.

Professional women in technical and scientific fields who completed a three-week on-line training course (featuring correspondence simulations and response feedback) worked directly with students as one-on-one telementors and discussion forum facilitators. Discussion Facilitators moderated group discussions around complex issues that young women face in considering their academic and career options. The project also developed a Web-site to provide access to resources and information to encourage young women to develop interests in science and technology. Last spring this three-year project was completed and a summative evaluation is being conducted to determine the program's impact. Follow-up participation surveys already indicate that students report feeling more encouraged about technical careers, improved their self-esteem, gained concrete strategies for dealing with obstacles in pursuing college and careers, and more clearly understood the requirements of being in a professional field.

The SummerMath program at Mount Holyoke College, established in 1982, encourages young women to feel confident about their mathematical abilities. The program is held on Mount Holyoke's campus for six weeks each summer, and consists of 4 1/2 hours of classroom time each day, during which tutoring, mentoring, counseling, and career, academic and college advising are provided. Approximately 100 young women entering grades 9 through 12 enroll in the program each year, and about 1,500 students have been served over the program's 15 years of existence. About half of the students are from minority groups, and students from all over the United States attend. College students are hired to serve as residential and teaching assistants, both mentoring the high school students and being mentored by the teachers with whom they work intensively. NASA and the state of Massachusetts are also partners in the program. SummerMath gauges effectiveness through follow-up questionnaires that measure participants' attitude toward math and how it may have changed because of the program.

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