UMass Boston News

UMass Boston Research Highlights Value of Youth-Initiated Mentoring

Office of Communications | August 21, 2013

Jean Rhodes Investigates National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program

Jean Rhodes, director of the UMass Boston/MENTOR Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring, and her colleagues have demonstrated the value of Youth-Initiated Mentoring (YIM) in three new peer-reviewed studies.

In the YIM model, young people select their own mentors from their existing social networks—typically extended family members, teachers, or neighbors. Such mentors are likely to live in the mentee’s neighborhood, making them more easily accessible. These “natural” mentors often have connections to youth outside the official mentor-mentee relationship, which increases the amount of time the pair might spend together outside of a formal program.

Rhodes and her colleagues looked at the only national program using the innovative YIM model, the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program. This intensive residential program for youth who have dropped out of high school is offered in more than 35 locations throughout the United States.

The three studies revealed the YIM approach produced remarkable results for the ChalleNGe participants. In a randomized evaluation of the program, Rhodes and her colleagues found that YIM had a sustained positive impact on participants. After three years, many participants continued to have relationships with the mentors they had chosen for themselves—and those who did had better educational, employment, and behavioral outcomes.

YIM differs from the approach used by most mentoring organizations, which match young people with mentors using their own criteria to decide who will make a good pair. In these situations, the young person and the mentor are frequently strangers to each other, which can lead to less effective relationships.

Links to studies:

Supporting the Transition to Adulthood Among High School Dropouts: An Impact Study of the National Guard Youth Challenge Program

Youth Initiated Mentoring: Investigating a New Approach to Working with Vulnerable Adolescents

“Somebody Who Was On My Side”: A Qualitative Examination of Youth-Initiated Mentoring, Youth In Society


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