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5 Key Takeaways from the 2021 National Mentoring Summit

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At the end of January, in an unprecedented virtual venue, MENTOR brought together close to 3,000 participants, including civic leaders, practitioners, researchers, mentors, and mentees, for the annual National Mentoring Summit.

The three-day event provided a platform for the advancement of youth development through mentoring, strengthening of programs and practices, and collaboration among the many actors who seek to close the mentoring gap. This year’s theme “Rising to the Moment” highlighted the need for resilience and innovation in ensuring quality mentoring programs for youth in today’s world.

Here are our 5 key takeaways from the Summit:

1. Adopting virtual mentoring is key to ensuring support structures during COVID

  • Mentoring relationships are essential pillars to youth empowerment and social recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. It is imperative to provide youth and mentors access to well-supported, innovative, and responsive technology. 
  • MENTOR reported that 76% of mentoring programs surveyed in the spring of 2020 had already transitioned to using virtual mentoring alternatives as a response to COVID and to ensure youth still have access to meaningful mentoring interactions. 
  • The sudden shift to remote mentoring models must not compromise the quality of the mentoring program but rather take into account mentee ages and program goals. One size does not fit all, so when deciding how to structure a meaningful remote mentoring program, organizations should employ introspection and quality planning.

2. Evaluating virtual programs strengthens quality and drives success

  • Adapting an in-person mentoring program to a virtual platform requires detailed planning and continuous evaluation.
  • Measures to evaluate include program implementation fidelity, program outcomes, mentee and mentor engagement, and progression.  
  • Creating a standardized documentation process that fits the needs of the organization and program participants is a must when developing virtual programs. Creating clear guidelines can help increase participant engagement, mitigate issues, increase organizational knowledge, and save time

3. Building mentee social support is imperative in times of social unrest

  • Now more than ever it is critical to look at the intersection of mentoring, race, and activism. Mentors should be sensitive and willing to meet the youth where they are, taking into account the many challenges facing our youth today. 
  • Simply maintaining contact with a mentee is not enough, mentors can create culturally sensitive environments celebrating and embracing mentees’ unique differences. 
  • Group mentoring activities can serve as a much-needed outlet for youth. By reinvigorating existing mentoring activities, program leaders and mentors can make a difference in their participants’ experience.

4. Investing in end-of-program closure activities ensures a lasting impact

  • When mentorship programs come to an end, a closure process will solidify the mentee-mentor relationships, especially in remote times. 
  • Virtual mentoring programs open the opportunity for lasting connections, even past the official program timeline. By continuing to engage with mentees well after the program ends, you can create a community that continues beyond the farewell meeting.

5. Collaboration is prevalent now more than ever among mentoring practitioners

  • Knowledge sharing, resilience, and adaptability are the cornerstones of success following this past year’s difficulties.  
  • Stay connected to fellow practitioners and learn about the latest innovations in the space by visiting MENTOR’s Resource Library
  • As a community of mentors and youth advocates, we need to adopt open approaches to defining, designing, delivering, and adapting mentoring programs to these trying times. 

To conclude, the National Mentoring Summit presents a much-needed platform for driving equity through quality mentoring programs. By bringing together activists, practitioners, collaborators, and youth, MENTOR is activating a movement across sectors to close the mentoring gap. If you are interested in getting involved or becoming a mentor, please visit MENTOR and join the movement to connect and fuel opportunities for youth wherever they may be.

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