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Theories & Approaches

All Theories & Approaches

Youth Mentoring

Youth Mentoring

by Mark Fulop

Welcome to Youth Mentoring! In this section, you will find the following:

Introduction

Youth mentoring popularly claims mythical origins in Homer's Odyssey, where Odysseus asks his friend Mentor to look after his son Telemachus while he goes off to fight the Trojan War (Freedman, 1993). While there is some debate about whether or not the relationship between Mentor and Telemachus meets mentoring criteria, the inclination to date the concept of mentoring to 800 BC suggests that the mentoring relationship has long been part of our history.

Historically, older generations have passed on wisdom to younger generations through oral histories, stories, ceremonies, rituals and apprenticeships. However, within the fragmented and fractured societies that exist in some of today's western nations, inter-generational connection and social bonds have weakened, and the organic drive to protect and nurture future generations has incrementally been losing its influence.

As a result, the efforts to connect youth with caring adults is increasingly institutionalized in a wide array of youth programs and interventions that comprise a relatively new discipline known as "youth development." Mentoring through structured and formal relationships is one youth development program strategy and is the focus on this month's ReCAPP edition.

Mentoring as a structured and formal intervention began to take form at the turn of the 20th century as urbanization and industrialization began to take hold in the United States. As a youth development strategy, formal youth mentoring has been steadily increasing since the 1980s, propelled in part by the growth of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America as well as the development of MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership (NMP) as an advocacy organization (Rhodes, 2002).

As the field of mentoring develops and expands its reach, the strategy grabs the attention of more and more youth development agencies that are beginning to explore its potential. To help guide agencies working in the area of pregnancy prevention, ReCAPP explores mentoring in this edition with three primary goals in mind:

  1. To overview what we know about youth mentoring in the context of pregnancy prevention;
  2. To illustrate the practice of youth mentoring as a pregnancy prevention strategy through two case studies; and
  3. To provide resources in the form of a basic mentoring foundations checklist, as well as additional references to professional literature, books and websites.

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Next: Designing a Mentoring Program>>

Mark Fulop, M.A., M.P.H., is the director of the National Mentoring Center at the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. Mark has worked in a variety of community service and public health programs for over 17 years and is both a fan and cheerleader of ReCAPP. The content for this edition of ReCAPP was supported by Award No. 1999-JG-FX-K001 from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.