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Be a Mentor
Thank you for your interest in becoming a mentor! Being a mentor is one of the most important things you can do for a child. One hour a week can make a big difference in a young person's life!
The application, screening, matching, and training process can easily take up to six months to complete. Mentoring programs seek to ensure the quality of their matches and are concerned with the well-being and safety of children and volunteers, therefore this process may take some time. Just remember, becoming a mentor is well worth the effort, so be persistent in your efforts to complete the process, and patient with programs as they work to match you with a child! Make sure to visit the Mentoring Connectorto search for mentoring programs in your area!
The process to formally begin a mentoring relationship varies, depending on the program you choose to volunteer with as a mentor and the specific focus of that program. You can generally expect the following requirements:
Once you have expressed an interest to a program, you will be contacted by program staff and asked to complete a written application. Both the mentee (youth) and mentor will be asked to complete applications. Information such as interests, hobbies, availability, preferences, etc may be asked to assist in the matching process.
After an application is received and reviewed, potential mentors will be asked to participate in an interview with one or more staff members from the mentoring program. Some programs require more than one interview; others may require an interview at the potential mentor's home.
3. Background checks
In order to ensure the safety of children in mentoring programs, background checks are essential. Background checks are performed by the program, and could include checking a potential mentor's criminal background history, driving record, references, the sex offender registry, the child abuse registry, etc. Each program has their own method of performing background checks. As a potential mentor, you may be asked to provide references, your driver's license number, your social security number, or these checks may be done using your fingerprints. All information obtained from you will remain confidential (e.g., your social security number will not be shared).
4. Orientation and Training
Once the interview and background checks are complete, and the potential mentor has been accepted into the program, staff will begin the process of matching them with a youth. During this process, the program will provide each mentor, mentee, and parent/guardian of the mentee orientation with training and support materials. Trained staff or volunteers from the program will conduct these sessions, which are held prior to the match. The length and scope of this orientation and training process will vary depending on the program. Generally, the orientation will outline the program and include information to clarify expectations, time commitment, and program benefits or rewards to all those involved. The program training for mentors may take place in one session, or may be broken down into multiple sessions. The training will offer more in-depth information on issues such as program policies and rules, roles and responsibilities, relationship building, age-appropriate activities, problem-solving skills, boundary setting, communication skills, etc. In addition, programs may offer ongoing training opportunities for mentors as needed.
5. Matching Process and First Meeting
Each program has their own criteria for creating matches, but generally, they seek to create long-lasting, compatible relationships between the mentor and mentee. Programs will pair mentors and mentees based on information such as common interests, hobbies, backgrounds, gender, availability, preferences, life experiences, temperament, etc. This information is obtained from both the mentor and mentee (or the mentee's parent/guardian) during the application and interview process. Once the mentor has been successfully matched with a youth, and the orientation or training process is complete, the program will arrange for the mentor and youth to meet. Generally, program staff will facilitate this meeting and help matches begin their relationship in a positive manner and to reduce anxiety for both the mentor and mentee. Some programs may also hold a large kickoff event or group activity for new matches.
6. Ongoing Support
As you start meeting with your mentee on a regular basis, you may have questions or come across issues that need attention. Each program has a process for monitoring and supporting mentoring matches. This will include ongoing communication between program staff, mentors, and mentees to ensure that the match is going well and to address any issues the mentor or mentee may have. In addition, programs will seek to support and recognize mentors in various ways, including recognition or appreciation activities, ongoing support, information on community activities, or structured events or social gatherings for matches to attend. Of course, staff from the individual program is available to address any concerns or questions you may have throughout the entire time you are matched with your mentee.
Are you ready to become a mentor? Please visit the Mentoring Connector, an online resource and comprehensive list of mentoring programs across the state, to search for mentoring programs in your area! You can search the directory by your zip code, and it will give you a list of programs that serve that specific area. Each listing includes contact information for the program; or you can simply select the "express an interest" button available on individual program pages to enter your information so the program can contact you!