You are interested in learning more about being a mentor. So what does it mean to be a mentor?
Mentoring is choosing to make time for a young person in need with the hope of making a permanent impact.
What does it take to be a mentor?
Mentors come from many walks of life – different ages, cultures and interests. There is something they all have in common, however. They are all safe, healthy, and caring people.
Our mentors range in age from 21 to 81. When a volunteer decides to mentor with us, they go through an extensive screening process which includes the following:
Nationwide criminal background check
Driving record check
CDHS (Colorado Dept of Human Services) check for name in TRAILS database
Fingerprints through CBI (Colorado Bureau of Investigation)
Personal Interview and assessment
This process can be completed in 1 or 2 easy sessions at our office.
Why so thorough? We want all our youth and mentors to have the best experience possible in our program and that starts with the highest quality individuals we can find. Secondly, having a thorough screening process puts checks into place that provide the highest level of protection for our youth and our mentors. Also, when recognizing that we are given responsibility with other people’s children, there can be no substitute. Finally it gives us a chance to learn more about the prospective mentor so that we can find the program that will fit their interests and schedules. Our goal is for both the youth and mentor to have a positive and engaging experience at Friends for Youth.
How do I know when I am ready?
The biggest thing you can do to prepare yourself for volunteering as a mentor is to ask yourself ‘Can I commit?’ Our youth’s lives are filled with adults that have broken promises and left them hanging. It is a critical part of successful mentoring to break that cycle rather than perpetuate it. The number one reason why matches end earlier than 1 year is that mentors can no longer commit to the 4-8 hours each month. This may be due to a number of reasons, but they all point to the fact that life can get busy. It is helpful in your decision making process to factor in your commitment level towards a youth, knowing your current priorities and commitments. The time commitment for our mentoring programs is as follows:
1-to-1 mentoring: 1 year commitment, 2-4 visits each month with a minimum of 4 hours spent with the youth.
Site-based mentoring: 8-12 week commitment, 1.5-2 hours each week on a specific day/evening of the week.
We ask that you carefully and practically consider your time limitations and examine future responses to schedule fluctuations that may leave you with less time to mentor. When our kids can’t see you, they cannot be impacted by you!
What if I have never mentored before?
Truly, these become some of our greatest mentors! Mentors who have little to no experience or background in mentoring are less likely to come in with a personal agenda and are more quick to reach out for resources and help. Don’t let any lack of mentoring experience act as a deterrent – in fact, most of our youth have never had any prior mentoring experience either.
I’m not sure I can work with X type of youth.
Maybe you might feel uncomfortable working with a youth with prior gang involvement. Likewise, maybe you are somebody that doesn’t really connect as well with much younger kids. We always tell mentors – if you are a safe and healthy person, you can mentor. We serve an incredibly diverse population, from ages 10-19, from all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, with varying levels of involvement in the Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice systems. As a part of our interview process, we learn about what you are comfortable with and make an assessment on what is the best fit for you. But you don’t have to take our word for it – when it comes time to mentor, you’ll have the final say and we always receive your informed consent for a specific program or working with a specific youth, so there are no surprises.
What expectations should I have?
It is helpful when mentors can enter into a mentoring relationship with few expectations – a clean slate, so to speak. Due to the varying nature and background of the youth we work with, each situation with our youth can be vastly different. We believe that every youth we serve can be impacted by the experience of having a mentor. We don’t always know what that impact will look like, but our involvement does something powerful – by stepping up to be the one to say “I will make a difference,” it is affirming the youth that they are ‘worth it’ and that even though there are no guarantees, simply by giving them a chance – we are already making that impact. In essence, our expectation becomes “I expect them learn that they are important and somebody cares about them”.