Tag Archives: Mentorship

The Significance of Youth-Mentor Relationships

Despite challenging circumstances, such as poverty, it has been recognized that some young adults are able to make a successful life for themselves after high school.  They are able to avoid the problems that can arise from their economic status or social position like delinquency or unemployment. Researchers at the University of Georgia have discovered that youth-mentor relationships play a crucial role in this phenomenon.  Mentors, especially those within the community, help youths stay focused on their goals and avoid the potential difficulties associated with the transition into adulthood.

The Adults in the Making Project is a program that is aimed at helping rural African-American youths transition to adulthood. They conducted a study to explore the effectiveness of youth mentorship. It consisted of 345 African-American participants ages 17-18. It measured their progress over the course of a year and a half through interviews with the youths themselves, their mentors, and their parents. The study was conducted within eight counties in Georgia that are among the highest in the nation in poverty rates— Baldwin, Butts, Elbert, Hancock, Morgan, Putnam, Twiggs and Wilkes. Unemployment rates there are also above the national average.

The youths were not assigned mentors, but were allowed to choose a mentor from the community. However, the mentor could not be an immediate family member or live in the youth’s home, and he or she had to be at least 5 years older. In several mentorship programs throughout the country, the mentor is typically unfamiliar to the youth and comes from outside sources. One of the things that the Adults in the Making Project kept in mind was that a mentor does not have to be a stranger. They wanted the youths to really look at the people within their community and see how they could potentially help them better themselves. The mentors would already know a little about the youths and have an investment in them.

This study exposed that aggressive and delinquent behaviors and substance abuse was reduced when the youths had a mentor to provide them support and help them deal with their problems. This correlation was even stronger for those who were experiencing hardships in their everyday lives. Steven Kogan, one of the researchers stated that, “If the youths had some bad things going on in their life, including being treated badly through discrimination or different family stressors, it was particularly helpful for them to have a good relationship with a mentor.”

Young people do not always have people in their lives to turn to for help or support for a number of reasons. A good parental figure is one of the most important factors for positive youth development and unfortunately a number of people grow up without one. This lack of guidance sets the stage for youth disconnection and a number of other problems. Therefore, having somebody outside the family to help one set goals and maintain self-control is a huge compensation for the lack of parental guidance. Kogan says, “The better the youth-mentor relationship was, the less likely the young adults were to be acting out, breaking rules or being aggressive when they were 19 or 20.” Mentorship is a great tool for young people to possess especially when they are experiencing hardships in their lives.

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110512171527.htm

by Betty Diop (Re:LIFE Writer/Columnist)
Pace University
B.A. Applied Psychology

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Empowering Youth: Qualities of an Effective Mentor II

GENUINE LISTENER

A Youth Mentor Must Be  A Genuine Listener.

A week ago, I started the series on Qualities of an Effective Mentor in respect to Youth Empowerment. In that article, I stressed on the need to

1. Assess – Test the mental, emotional, social and psychological stability of prospective mentors,

2.  Train – Equip qualified mentors with tools and materials relevant to building successful relationships and mentoring youth

3. Monitor- Supervise and Monitor relationships to ensure effectiveness and positive impact from people who mentor youth.

Following these steps will minimize the rate at which unqualified and incapable people dabble into the business of Youth Mentoring.

I also talked about the importance of Empathy and Compassion in relation to Youth Development, and how they could help one build trust in a mentor-youth relationship (Click to read article)

My second point therefore, is the need for Genuine Listening and its impact when dealing with youth. We have all heard the ‘talk less, listen more’ clichés and so on.  However, as watered-down as the quote might sound, we need to emulate it when dealing with youth. Borrowing from Deborah Tanned’s quote, “the biggest mistake is believing that there is one right way to listen, to talk, to have a conversation—or a relationship”, one must be an extremely skilled and resourceful listener to understand and impact youth. By listening, I don’t just mean what is being said, you have to listen to what their bodies are saying, what their eyes are saying, what their moods are saying, EVERYTHING; and try to coordinate them to all say the same thing.

In order words, if you notice that one’s mood is sour and unusual, and responses to well-being questions are simply ‘I’m fine’, something could be wrong. Find it out! In fact, one thing that effective listening helps you do is become more familiar with your mentee’s responses, actions, behaviors or moods, which in turn could help you address a need.

By being observant, by listening to more than just words, you convince the youth that you do not just want to be around, but that you genuinely CARE, and care deeply about their well-being. This will help them open up more readily, sometimes before you even ask about an issue. One strategy that always worked for me when inquiring about a sour mood was to tell a story about a disappointment I had in the past and how not sharing it made it hurt some more. This always worked even though in some cases there is usually some delay, and then a gradual opening up.

Another strategy is to tactfully ask about their loved ones. If the reason for a certain mood or action is caused by a loved one, a unique reaction, either a sigh, a heave, pain or more sorrow is always expressed when you mention the person behind the mood. It helps them open up to tell you what happened. However, if they insist on not sharing, let them be. Just be patient about it, they eventually do.

Now I intentionally did not use the word ‘Observer’ because I believe that an observer is not as involved in a relationship as a Listener. An observer is sometimes a third person ‘interactor’ who only needs to make an observation without making direct connection. An observer is not obligated to respond. A listener on the other hand is an attentive participator with an intention and/or an expectation of some sort of response; whether it be a silent response (i.e. nodding, acknowledgement etc), verbal response or a physical reaction. A connection is needed for effective response. Observation is in essence, a crucial part of listening, but should not be mistaken for it or substituted for it.

Thus, in listening to your mentee, every word, action, mood, movement, excuse, motive, mannerism, etc is relevant in building the framework of messages being passed across in order to effectively respond to their actions. A genuine and positive response based on a cautious interpretation of messages received (from words, actions, moods, etc) could gainfully affect and help uplift a mentee in their time of distress or rebellion. So Observe carefully, but LISTEN GENUINELY!

Download PDF: Empowering Youth- Qualities of an Effective Mentor I

Download PDF: Empowering Youth- Qualities of an Effective Mentor II

By Chike Ukaegbu,
Founder/CEO, Re:LIFE Inc
Re:LIFE is a 501c3 nonprofit organization determined to educate, equip, encourage, cultivate and motivate young disconnected males to become entrepreneurs in diverse fields that will spur economic growth, reduce unemployment, and increase fiscal responsibility in our communities. This entrepreneurial focus will come alongside educational, career and leadership preparations in five different areas of concentration.
For more information about the Re:LIFE Re-engagement Program and other Re:LIFE services, Contact us at:
Email: relife@relifeinc.org
Call: 347.450.1205/06
Visit our Website: http://www.relifeinc.org
Become a LIFEr Today: http://bit.ly/fN6B0b
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Empowering Youth: Qualities of an Effective Mentor

DOWNLOAD PDF Here: Empowering Youth: Qualities of an Effective Mentor

I have discovered that empowering, inspiring or motivating youth is both an enduring and rewarding process of gradually remolding their mindsets. The most important goal of empowering youth is to encourage social, emotional, psychological and physical independence. It is the ability, authority or sanction for youth to confidently make positive decisions that affect both them and others. Youth empowerment is a multi-tasking challenge that requires an aptly prepared worker to undertake.

Many times, we involve incapable people in the business of youth, out of desperation and dire need for mentors. In doing this, we fail to realize that a ‘wrong’ relationship or wrong influence could worsen the affected youth’s outlook on life and its caretakers i.e. mentors, parents, relatives, counselors, religious leaders, teachers etc.  By ‘wrong’ relationships, I mean an involvement of an inconsistent mentor; an emotionally abusive mentor; a weak-willed mentor; an untrained or ignorant mentor etc. These classifications of mentors could actually worsen the emotional states of youth in several ways.

Thus, in studying the process of youth mentorship and empowerment, it is necessary to Assess, Train and Monitor mentors so that relationships are not only mutually beneficial to the youth and mentor involved, but also helps the mentor understand personal traits, qualities, characteristics, strengths and weaknesses suitable or potentially dangerous for the task ahead.

Therefore, in the next couple blog postings, I’d be exploring qualities and characteristics of effective mentors necessary for youth empowerment, inspiration and motivation.

The first time I met 17 year old John, my ‘Little Brother’ from the Big Brother Big Sister program (BBBS NY Chapter), I knew I had a daunting task ahead of me. John wasn’t really the typical bad kid; he was just at a place where he was being influenced by a more misguided older brother. He had been suspended from school for fighting another boy because of a girl; his closest friends were gang members, even though he denied being a part of any, he had run away from home a couple times; and had started sleeping out of his grandmother’s house, who was his caretaker. These and more were the reasons why his concerned grandmother felt the need to find him a suitable mentor through the BBBS program.

We took to each other like white on rice, as he quickly opened up to me the moment he realized that he could trust me. Our friendship grew, and the more it did, the more he got me involved in his life. Few months down the line, he alongside his brother and friends were arrested for trying to rob an undercover cop. I was the first one called. I was disappointed at him, but at the same time honored that I was his first choice of confidence. I stood by him, believing his story of not being involved in the incident even though all else said otherwise, attending all his court proceedings, keeping in touch with his family etc. Fortunately his charges were dropped. That incident put things into perspective for him. He called me for more advice, ex-communicated most of his friends, and is currently in college working towards his degree. His grandmother and Aunt still haven’t stopped talking about his love, respect and admiration for me; something they say they’d never seen him have for anyone all his life.

Looking back at that experience, and many others that impacted my life goal of inspiring and giving hope to in-need Youth, I decided to share some of the qualities that I acquired and honed during our life changing journey. These and more have helped me navigate the stormy sea of youth mentoring, and have continually helped me achieve success in this field.

Therefore, in sharing these, I hope that people will become more aware of the situations youth are faced with and how to deal with them cautiously to avoid hurt, disappointment and withdrawal.

1. Compassion and Empathy:

It is necessary to Become-Your-Mentee, in order to understand their journey. You have to assume their role and position to fully comprehend their situation. For instance, with BBBS John, I was dealing with a young man who was being raised by his aunt and grandmother because his father had abandoned him at a young age, and his incarcerated mother did not seem very interested in his well-being.

John grew up believing that he had done something wrong to deserve his plight. He did not understand how he could trust anyone to love him, if his birth parents did not find him worthy of being loved. This mindset resulted in several rebellious acts, which had become his method of expressing his anger and pain. I quickly learned that of him, realizing that what he needed was compassion and empathy, and not the harsh chastising, scolding, cursing and confidence-depleting words he had grown used to hearing and believing his entire life. I completely immersed myself in his situation, believing him and in him, even when it made no sense to, and trying hard to really understand what he went through at every given point. That empathy helped calm him down as he gradually became comfortable sharing his pains, heartaches and disappointments with me. This was not only therapeutic for him, but it also helped build our trust-bond.

Empathy and compassion, most importantly can only stem for a genuine concern and LOVE for your mentee.  They fuel TRUST, which is crucial for the survival of any mentor-mentee relationship. They also create room for a mentor to help a mentee see different ways of resolving different situations. My mentees most often become inclined to trying my suggested solutions or avenues of resolutions once they feel I have their best interest at heart.

Notice how I did not use Sympathy. This is because Empathy is NOT Sympathy.  While empathy is a deeper understanding, an unspoken connection, a compassionate sharing of one’s plight or painful condition; sympathy is more of an understanding of the condition without the deep experience involved.

Sympathizing with youth could be dangerous. It sometimes sends a message of ‘while I acknowledge your pain and trauma, you are alone in its experience’ or ‘ I see you are suffering, but I do no t know how to help you right now’; while on the other hand, empathy indicates that you are a partner in the painful experience. The former could result in the youth distancing themselves emotionally and physically from the mentor, a withdrawal into loneliness for lack of anticipated connection and/or even a more traumatic experience during their time of pain.

In other words, to successfully inspire youth, a mentor must be consistently compassionate and empathic to all of a mentee’s every experience, whether good or bad. SHARE YOUR MENTEE’S LAUGHTERS AS WELL AS THEIR PAINS. It goes a long way.

Watch OUT for the Continuation of this SERIES.

By Chike Ukaegbu,

Founder/CEO, Re:LIFE Inc

Re:LIFE is a nonprofit organization determined to educate, equip, encourage, cultivate and motivate young disconnected males to become entrepreneurs in diverse fields that will spur economic growth, reduce unemployment, and increase fiscal responsibility in our communities. This entrepreneurial focus will come alongside educational, career and leadership preparations in five different areas of concentration.

For more information about the Re:LIFE Re-engagement Program and other Re:LIFE services, Contact us at:

Email: relife@relifeinc.org

Call: 347.450.1201/06

Visit our Website: http://www.relifeinc.org

Become a LIFEr Today: http://bit.ly/fN6B0b

Like our Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/hewFET

Follow us on Twitter: Relifeinc

Add us on LinkedIn: Re:LIFE Incorporated

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