How to be a mentor to more than one youth

Foster individual relationships in a group mentoring program.

Small group mentoring is becoming increasingly common for a variety of reasons. This program model is often more cost-effective for programs and addresses the difficulty of recruiting mentors. In a group mentoring program, one mentor is matched with up to four youth for a school or calendar year, which allows a greater number of youth to benefit from mentoring with fewer volunteers.

Mentoring is bound to look different when multiple youth gather with a mentor rather than the traditional approach of one mentor matched with one youth. How can mentors ensure each young person gets time and attention? Here are some tips from Michigan State University Extension.

  • Spend time early in the match getting to know each other. Team-building activities, icebreakers and mentor-facilitated conversations provide opportunities to get to know likes and dislikes, personalities and needs. Youth in group mentoring relationships benefit from the relationships formed with the mentor and the other youth in the match.
  • Provide opportunities for each youth to contribute to conversations. Notice if someone is hanging back and ask if they have something to add.
  • Take the time to single out each youth at different times for their contributions. Praise for leadership, listening, collaborating, kindness or bringing humor to the team can help a young person see that the mentor recognizes what makes them special.
  • Create an environment where everyone has a role and the opportunity to take on different roles. For instance, in a STEM mentoring program, one person may retrieve needed supplies, one might read the directions, one might take the lead in the activity and one may lead reflection. These roles can rotate month to month or session to session.
  • Find opportunities for one-on-one time. Perhaps one mentee spends one-on-one time with the mentor each week while the others clean up. The mentor should still be in the room with all the youth, but take the opportunity to talk one-on-one in case a mentee wants to discuss something with the mentor and not their peers.
  • Make an effort to create a team environment. To do this, encourage your mentees to cheer each other on and help each other out. 

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