Young people are matched with a trained, caring mentor who provides friendship and support to help them navigate life and make healthy life choices.

Curious how matching a caring adult with a young person can make a huge difference?

Formal mentoring matches caring individuals with young people to provide support, friendship, reinforcement and constructive examples.

Mentoring is also a partnership between the mentor and mentee for the positive development of the mentee. The mentee is not reduced to a recipient role. The mentee is an active participant and decision maker in his or her development. This allows an emotional transaction between them to occur with bonds of mutual trust and respect at the core of each relationship.

What is a mentor?

  • A friend 
    A mentor has time to listen and give thoughtful, caring advice and assistance. He or she is someone who notices the little things and uses simple phrases like “I’m proud of you,” to help build self-esteem of young people. A friend realizes that time is needed to build a relationship; especially if the youth’s past relationships have not been stable ones.
  • A role model
    A mentor is someone who has had successful life experiences and who is willing to share them. Modeling can come at many levels. Some can be as basic and tangible as making a craft, playing a sport or washing the car. Others can be less tangible, but just as important. These might include controlling anger, using good manners, or directing one’s energy in a positive direction.
  • A link to the community
    A mentor should be knowledgeable about the community and be willing to research any information that is unknown to him or her. He or she will teach the young person how to access local resources.

Why do youth need mentors?

Youth need caring, nurturing, open and encouraging people in their lives. It is paramount to their psychological development that youth, especially at-risk and underserved children, have someone in their life to provide positive support to help them realize their potential.

Many youth have a desperate need for enduring contact with positive adult role models. Youth need to be guided, supported, prized and nurtured. Mutual trust, respect and awareness of being valued are key components for an emotional bond to occur between the mentee and mentor.

How does mentoring affect youth?

The intimate connection that can form between the mentor and the mentee helps reinforce positive perceptions of self-esteem and self-worth in youth. Mentoring is a tool for positive youth development. It can help improve grades, develop communication skills, enhance leadership abilities and encourage civic values and participation.

Research indicates:

  • Students who met regularly with their mentors are 52% less likely than their peers to skip a day of school and 37% less likely to skip a class (Tierney & Grossman, 2000).
  • Youth who met regularly with their mentors are 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking (Tierney & Grossman, 2000).
  • Faith-based mentoring has reduced recidivism rates to 5 to 12% (Prison Fellowship International, 2007).

Types of mentoring offered

4-H Youth Mentoring offers a variety of program models to meet the needs of different communities.  4-H mentoring opportunities in Michigan include:

  • Individual mentoring
    Matches one youth and an older individual. The young person is the focus of this relationship.
  • Group mentoring
    Matches no more than four youth with one adult or older youth to develop a relationship.  This model includes 4-H Tech Wizards.
  • Peer mentoring 
    Older youth mentor youth who are three or more years younger.  These matches usually take place at site such as a school or neighborhood center.
  • Community-based mentoring
    These matches meet at a variety of community locations.  Adult mentors and their mentees will participate in activities that may include sports, crafts, museums and other hobbies.
  • Site-based mentoring
    These matches meet regularly at a school or another location in the community. Staff are present to provide guidance and support. 

What is Michigan 4-H Youth Mentoring?

4-H believes all youth need positive, caring, nurturing adults to reach their optimum potential in Head, Hands, Heart and Health. Michigan 4-H Youth Mentoring offers planned mentoring programs for youth aged 5 to 19 that spotlights one-on-one, peer and small-group mentoring models.

Mentoring programs are not new to Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension. 4-H has a long history of establishing and supporting ongoing, positive and nurturing relationships between youth and adults. Michigan 4-H Youth Mentoring utilizes Michigan 4-H Youth Development’s expertise, infrastructure and resources as part of a larger community-based effort.

4-H mentoring programs do not exist to compete with nor take away mentors, mentees or resources from other mentoring or youth development programs. 4-H mentoring programs strengthen mentoring efforts for families, neighborhoods, communities and cities throughout Michigan by extending the resources of Michigan State University Extension to address this important need.

MSU Extension youth mentoring programs include Michigan 4-H Youth Mentoring, Journey 4-H Youth Mentoring, 4-H Tech Wizards, Wayne County 4-H Mentoring, STOMP, Key Mentoring, Macomb County Mentoring, Osteochamps, Montmorency 4-H Mentoring, Journey 4-H: The Outdoor Challenge, Clinton County 4-H Mentoring and 4-H Tribal Youth Mentoring.


Prison Fellowship International. (2007). Communities of Restoration (APAC). Washington, DC. Author. Available at

Tierney, J.P., & Grossman, J.B. (with Resch, N.). (2000). Making a Difference: An Impact Study of Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Philadelphia: Public/Private Ventures.


Frank Cox, Extension Educator
4-H Youth Development
Phone: 231-724-4738


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