What is mentoring?
A mentor is “an experienced and trusted advisor”, according to the Oxford Dictionary. Mentoring is typically when an older and/or more experienced individual acts as a role model for a younger, less experienced person. These mentors can be instrumental in helping youth develop skills and confidence.
There are many types of mentoring – natural mentoring or formal mentoring, one-on-one mentoring, group mentoring, or team mentoring – and all have a role to play in supporting children and youth to reach their potential. Mentors can be matched in formal mentoring programs, or may be coaches, youth group leaders, teachers or neighbours.
Why is mentoring important?
For young people in general, research shows that formal mentoring program models (community-based mentoring, group mentoring, and cross-age peer mentoring) that develop strong mentoring relationships over at least one year can yield positive effects for mentees. Studies show small, modest positive outcomes for youth in mentoring that are comparable to other similar, well-developed formal interventions with youth. These outcomes relate to positive academic, emotional, behavioural and social development. To be effective, a mentoring relationship must be strong, consistent, and last at least one year.
A youth from Covenant House Toronto describes the importance of mentoring, “The point of having a mentor is just to have someone supporting you, to have someone at your back in a time when you’re down. A mentor is someone who is there to pick you up, to help you. They’re not there to manipulate you to say something that is bad for you. They’re just there pretty much to support you, help you become a better person, to help you reach that goal you’ve been trying to reach. A mentor for me is just a person who is willing to help without expecting anything back from you.”
What can Ontarians do to support mentoring
We encourage all Ontarians to consider how they can be mentors to children and youth in their lives. We can all be role models to youth we interact with, but please also consider connecting with organizations who are matching adult/older mentors with children and youth in your community.
Agencies that deliver mentoring services across the province also need your support.
Who can be a mentor?
Many people think it take special skills or accomplishments to be a mentor. Not so! Mentors come from all walks of life and have different life experiences and different things to offer. What mentors have in common is the desire to make a positive difference in the life of a child or youth.
If you want to get involved, there are many flexible mentoring program options available to fit your schedule and lifestyle.