Mentoring programs across Virginia are facing unprecedented challenges as they seek to foster connections between mentors and mentees as school closures take effect. It is during uncertain times such as these that young people most need the support and guidance that mentorship offers.
MENTOR Virginia is an anchor nonprofit that promotes effective youth mentoring by increasing capacity and sustainability of mentoring programs and providing resources to support the mentoring field throughout the Commonwealth. The organization is fielding calls from mentoring programs across the state who are asking for help with alternatives to in-person mentoring. E-mentoring is a social distancing solution that incorporates digital technology to create and maintain a virtual connection.
One program that has embraced e-mentoring is AMP! Metro Richmond, a one-to-one mentoring program operating in T.C. Boushall Middle School and MENTOR Virginia program partner. Laura Leporati, AMP! Program Coordinator, saw value in pivoting early. “When COVID-19 hit, we quickly realized the importance of having a caring adult checking in on our students and providing some sort of consistency. We moved to virtual mentoring as soon as possible and finished out the school year to maintain those connections. With Richmond Public Schools continuing with virtual learning for the first semester, AMP! has decided to continue with e-mentoring for the entire 2020-21 school year.”
MENTOR Virginia has established an extensive collection of resources for programs to help them transition to e-mentoring. Mentoring programs can use standard meeting platforms such as Zoom or Skype, or go with online communities like iCouldBe or Cricket Together that are built specifically for mentoring. Mentors and mentees can connect individually and participate in group activities such as virtual field trips and games. E-mentoring also opens up more opportunities for mentors who would not normally be able to travel to participate in face-to-face meetings.
In a recent regional survey of mentoring programs, 77% are planning to incorporate e-mentoring into their fall programming. To create a space where mentoring programs can share experiences, ask questions, and learn about resources, MENTOR Virginia has hosted webinars and dialogues with program partners. The next one, Coffee and Conversations: Virtual Fall Programming, will be held virtually August 13.
“Our resources and online events are open to all mentoring programs and offer the opportunity to join a statewide community focused on identifying shared concerns and innovating solutions,” explains Jennifer Boyle, Executive Director of MENTOR Virginia. “We have the unique ability to provide updates and resources from a network of programs and service providers. We also offer consulting at no cost to help programs respond to this crisis in ways that lead to stronger, longer-lasting, and higher-quality mentoring relationships for more of Virginia’s young people.”
MENTOR Virginia continues to serve and support program partners as they work to facilitate mentoring connections now, and plan for what future programming might hold in store. It is imperative that we remain committed to fostering quality virtual mentoring relationships that empower, elevate, and encourage young people.
Read about MENTOR Virginia in RFM here.