Youth mentoring programs must change in order to become truly effective. This talk shows how.
Youth mentoring is among the most popular forms of volunteering in the world. But does it work? Does mentoring actually help young people succeed? In Older and Wiser, Professor Jean Rhodes draws on more than thirty years of empirical research to survey the state of the field. Her conclusion is sobering: there is little evidence that most programs—even renowned, trusted, and long-established ones—are effective. But there is also much reason for hope. Mentoring programs, do not focus on what young people need. Organizations typically prioritize building emotional bonds between mentors and mentees. But research makes clear that effective programs emphasize the development of specific social, emotional, and intellectual skills. Most mentoring programs are poorly suited to this effort because they rely overwhelmingly on volunteers, who rarely have the training necessary to teach these skills to young people. Moreover, the one-size-fits-all models of major mentoring organizations struggle to deal with the diverse backgrounds of mentees, the psychological effects of poverty on children, and increasingly hard limits to upward mobility in an unequal world. Rhodes does not think we should give up on mentoring — far from it. In this talk, she will show that evidence-based approaches can in fact create meaningful change in young people’s lives. She will also discuss “organic” mentorship opportunities — in schools, youth sports leagues, and community organizations.
Jean Rhodes, PhD is the Frank L. Boyden Professor of Psychology and the Director of the Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Rhodes has devoted her career to understanding and advancing the role of intergenerational relationships in the social, educational, and career development of marginalized youth. She has published widely on topics related to positive youth development, the transition to adulthood, and mentoring. Her new book, Older and Wiser: Rethinking Youth Mentoring for the 21st Century (Harvard Press) describes ways that programs can improve their outcomes. Rhodes is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and the Society for Research and Community Action, a Health Policy Fellow of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Distinguished Fellow of the William T. Grant Foundation. She holds a doctorate in clinical psychology from DePaul University and completed her clinical internship at the University of Chicago Medical Center.