Toolkit on Effective Mentoring for Youth
Facing Barriers to Success

Best practices and resources to build, strengthen, evaluate and sustain effective mentoring programs for youth considered at high-risk of under education, unemployment, homelessness, criminalization, and other negative outcomes.

Newcomer Youth

Key Lessons

  • Developing and planning a mentoring program for newcomer youth should include:
    • Consulting with the community through an advisory committee or needs assessment process;
    • Understanding the particular challenges related to the community’s transition to their new country;
    • Hiring staff from the community or those who have a strong understanding of the community;
    • Reviewing program materials regularly to ensure cultural appropriateness; and
    • Supporting past mentees in becoming mentors. 3, 9, 11Racialized / Newcomer Body Map
  • Programs should include family members in mentoring as much as possible to help the youth balance learning about their new culture and maintaining previous cultural values and norms.3, 4
  • Mentors should receive training in various community-specific issues, such as the immigration process (and its challenges), trauma (mental and physical issues), and cultural competency.1, 2, 7, 9, 11


Here is a Body Map of newcomer youth prepared by participants (service providers) during a training day by the Ontario Mentoring Coalition.


Existing Tools & Resources

Mentoring Immigrant & Refugee Youth:

Tool for Mentoring Immigrant Communities:

Effective Mentoring for Newcomer Youth


Standards & Good Practices
(linked to positive outcomes for participants)

Other Pertinent Info
(from other studies & reports)

Program Planning

When developing a program for newcomer youth it is important for program staff to:

  • Consult with the community you will be serving and give a voice to community leaders to understand specific assets, needs, and challenges. This can be done through development of an advisory committee and/ or conducting a needs assessment;
  • Listen and understand the context surrounding the community’s transition to their new country;
  • Prioritize hiring staff who are from the community you will be serving or have a strong understanding of the community;
  • Review program materials regularly to ensure cultural appropriateness and diminish any bias; and
  • Use a mentoring model that allows mentees to become mentors can support the young person’s acculturation and pass on skills and tools to future newcomer youth.3, 9, 11
Programs should consider designing the program to impact the challenging context which newcomers are experiencing, e.g., mentoring programs can work to address issues newcomer youth experience in their school cultures.3

Support from schools and communities is essential for the success of mentoring programs.2

Examples of mentoring programs for newcomer youth:

Refer to Mentoring Immigrant and Refugee Youth for tips and training tools for staff working with newcomer children.11

Refer to Mentoring Immigrant and Refugee Youth for tips to develop an inclusive advisory committee.11

Program Implementation

Two types of mentoring may be useful for newcomer/ first generation youth:

  1. Instrumental- focus on supporting newly immigrated youth in learning skills and expectations in new culture (e.g., language and cultural expectations/ behaviours)
  2. Developmental- focus on supporting youth who have lived in the country for an extended period of time or are first generation youth in negotiating an identity based on more than one cultural experience/background6

Program staff should learn as much as possible about the cultural background of their mentees by doing their own research and listening to each mentee to understand their own experiences better.11

Encouraging cultural activities from various backgrounds, including the mentee’s previous country and new home country, can help all participants appreciate cultural differences.7

Newcomer youth can benefit from positive social relationships which assist with assimilation and consequently decrease negative mental health outcomes.4, 8

Increased access to mentors was associated with youth feeling more respected by adults.6


Mentee Referral, Selection & Training


Mentoring programs for newcomers should only begin after the mentee has settled into their new country and their initial needs are met.3

Mentee recruitment materials should be available in multiple languages to ensure parents and caregivers are aware of the opportunity and can refer their children.1

Mentor Recruitment, Screening & Selection


Determine what role you would like the mentors to play (e.g., language acquisition, emotional support, etc.).9

Tips to recruit mentors for newcomer mentoring program:

  • Partner with a community leader to help recruit.
  • Connect with organizations relevant to the community (e.g., religious groups).
  • Utilize language that represents the community.
  • Build relationships with potential mentors.
  • Explore varying roles for potential mentors.9, 11

Mentor Training

Have community partners support development of the mentor training.9

Mentor training should include educating mentors about the following:

  • The immigration process;
  • The negative impacts related to migrating to a new country (e.g., separation form family members);
  • Other issues related to the community they will be working with;
  • Trauma and other mental or physical health needs that the mentees may experience; and
  • Cultural competency, so they can be empathetic and understanding mentors.1, 2, 7, 9, 11

Mentors should be aware of the negative impact of early match termination, especially for newcomer youth many of whom have had to leave behind family members and friends.1

Refer to Mentoring Immigrant and Refugee Youth for examples of training activities for mentors in newcomer youth mentoring programs.11

Matching Process

Same-race matching is not necessarily superior to cross-race matching for newcomer youth. Cross-race matching can provide cross-cultural learning.3

Mentors who share life experiences with their mentees may be seen as more credible and thus developing relationships with their mentees may be easier.1

One study found that youth who had cross-race mentors were less likely to perceive experiences of discrimination.6

Mentees who identified with multiple cultures were more likely to seek support from their natural mentors, than those who felt assimilated in the community.6

Refer to Mentoring Immigrant and Refugee Youth for pros and cons of same gender/race/ethnic mentor matching.11


Mentoring Relationship Development

Building trust is the most important element of mentoring for newcomer youth.8

Mutual cultural understandings are an important part of relationship development for mentors and mentees.3

A peer mentoring program with newcomers from China found that they had statistically significantly increased peer attachment and trust.8

Traditional mentoring programs focus on mentoring relationships developing based on personal disclosures; this may not be an approach that is appropriate for individuals from different cultures. Asian youth who are less acculturated may be less likely to disclose about personal details, and as such, mentors should be open to forming relationships in ways that are comfortable for their mentees.5

Parent/ Caregiver/ Family Involvement

Engage with community throughout the program by:

  • Connecting with family members regularly;
  • Hosting open houses and community celebrations with food for families, and community members; and
  • Asking parents to observe/participate in activities.9

It is important to engage the family for refugee children in mentoring programs due to the often collectivist experience of refugees.3

Keep parents informed about the program- ensure materials are translated and you provide lots of pictures for those who may have literacy issues.11

Including family in the mentoring process can help the mentee balance learning about their new community/cultural norms and maintaining their previous family/cultural values.3, 4  

The mentor’s engagement with the family can not only help the mentee’s development, but also support the family.10


  1. MENTOR. (2015). Elements of effective practice for mentoring, 4th ed. Retrieved from
  2. Schueths, A. M., & Carranza, M. A. (2012). Navigating around educational road blocks: Mentoring for pre-K to 20+ Latino/a students. Latino Studies, 10(4), 566-586.
  3. Birman, D., & Morland, L. (2013). Immigrant and refugee youth. In DuBois, D. L., & Karcher, M. J. (Eds.), Handbook of Youth Mentoring (pp. 355-369). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
  4. Birman, D., Weinstein, T., Chan, W. Y., & Beehler, S. (2007). Immigrant youth in U.S. schools: Opportunities for prevention. The Prevention Researcher, 14(4), 14-17.
  5. Chen, J. C., & Danish, S. J. (2010). Acculturation, distress disclosure, and emotional self-disclosure within Asian populations. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 1(3), 200-211.
  6. Liao, L. C., & Sánchez, B. (2015). An exploratory study of the role of mentoring in the acculturation of Latino/a youth. Journal of Community Psychology, 43(7), 868-877.
  7. Rotich, J. (2009). Mentoring as a springboard to acculturation of immigrant students into American schools. Journal of Case Studies in Education, 1, 1-8.
  8. Yeh, C. J., Ching, A. M., Okubo, Y., & Luthar, S. S. (2007). Development of a mentoring program for Chinese immigrant adolescents’’ cultural adjustment. Adolescence, 42(168), 733-747.
  9. Alberta Mentoring Partnership. (2011b). Guidelines for mentoring with immigrant and refugee children and youth. Retrieved from
  10. Bridging Refugee Youth and Children’s Services (BRYCS). (2010). New direction in mentoring refugee youth. Bridging Refugee Youth and Children’s Services, Migration and Refugee Services, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
  11. MENTOR. (2007). Mentoring immigrant & refugee youth. A toolkit for program coordinators. Retrieved from


Funding provided by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services