National Mentoring Resource Center Blog

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13 Reasons Why: What Do Youth Development Professionals Need to Know?

MAY 23, 2017

Over the past several weeks, many youth development professionals have become aware of the Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, which revolves around the suicide of a female high school student, Hannah Baker. Due to its fast-spreading popularity, whether or not you have seen it, you may have received questions from parents and youth about the themes that are addressed in the series. These themes, many of which are uncomfortable and controversial, are nonetheless important to talk about, especially with students of a similar age to the characters depicted on the show. Conversations about mental health and suicide can reduce the stigma behind these experiences to allow those who are suffering to know that they are not alone and can get help. However, because of the complexity of these topics and the ways in which they are depicted in the series, parents/guardians, school administrators, and youth development professionals should be aware of the questions and concerns young people may have after watching it, so they can be prepared for the important discussions the series may spark.

For those who are unfamiliar with the series’ premise, the story unfolds through a series of pre-recorded tapes on which the main character, Hannah Baker, describes thirteen reasons that led up to her suicide. Through the episodes the audience finds out that Hannah has had many rumors spread about her, and that eventually she was the target of bullying, social isolation, and sexual abuse. Below, we offer some information about the complex themes addressed in the show, and where you can go for more resources. As we know many parents and youth development professionals have been addressing these topics with youth, we invite you to post other resources and tips you have found useful in the comments section below.

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Dear Dr. Jones: Ethical Decision-Making Example 1: A Case of Complicated Communication

MAY 22 2017

Hi folks! Welcome to the second installment in this series focused on ethics and decision-making in youth mentoring programs.

First, I want to thank everyone for clicking, reading, sharing, and responding to the first post…which you can find here if you missed it. Today’s post is likely to have fewer gratuitous animal pics than the last one, BUT I am excited to get to our first user-submitted ethical dilemma!

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Insights from the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America LGBTQ Youth Mentoring Initiative

MAY 5, 2017

One by one, participants came up to the front of the room and added a personal note of commitment describing how they will support and provide a safe space to youth who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) in their mentoring program. The notes—banded together to form links of a paper “ally” chain—highlighted how small, individual actions can collectively make a difference. This activity reflects the approach of a new pilot project at Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

At the 2017 National Mentoring Summit, I co-presented a session with Hillary Bardwell, Director of Foundation Grants at BBBS, previewing our early experiences developing an initiative that enhances mentoring services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. Funded by Altria Group, Inc., the LGBTQ youth mentoring enhancement pilot is providing training, coaching, and intensive technical assistance to five sites within the BBBS network (Chicago, Nashville, Philadelphia, Richmond, and Seattle) with the goal of closing the mentoring “gap” for one of our nation’s most marginalized populations. During this initiative, each site is responsible for updating policies, practices, and sponsoring/developing volunteer training to ensure that LGBTQ youth receive safe and affirming mentoring services from qualified mentors. The timeline for the first phase of the pilot initiative is September 2016 to August 2017.

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Practice to Research and Back Again

MAY 2, 2017

One of the things I appreciate most about being involved in mentoring research is the ability to interact with mentoring professionals that are passionate about their work, understand how to use research to improve their practice, and are not shy about letting researchers like me know the kinds of research questions they most need answers to in order to advance their work. Researcher-practitioner partnerships are becoming the norm across many fields of human services, but in my experience, the depth of these partnerships in the mentoring field is unique and exciting. The 2017 National Mentoring Summit reinforced for me both the feeling that researcher-practitioner partnerships are alive and well in the mentoring field, and the feeling that they are absolutely essential to progress in the field.

I have had the honor to be able to partner with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) to carry out a Mentoring Best Practices grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to build the research base on the effectiveness of group mentoring and to build practical resources for implementing group mentoring programs for maximum effectiveness. Together with Vida Sanford and the Mentoring for Success team at SFUSD, the research team that I co-lead with Winnie Chan at Georgia State University has built a proud partnership! Our workshop at the Summit, entitled, Building Effective Group Mentoring Programs: Lessons from Research and Practice on Project Arrive sought to highlight findings from the research and learnings from implementing a high school based group mentoring program over the course of 5 years.

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Mentoring Measurement Musings

APRIL 10, 2017

Editor's Note: Several members of the NMRC Research Board participated in the 2017 National Mentoring Summit this past February, leading a research track that featured OJJDP-funded research and totaled 13 workshops across the multi-day event. We asked several Research Board members to share their key insights from the event based on a workshop they lead, an innovation they learned about, or a conversation they had with an attendee that made them think about the mentoring field in a new light. We will run several of these stories over the months of March and April in the NMRC blog to bring the Summit to life for those who could not attend.

As I left the Research Board meeting of the National Mentoring Resource Center at the 2017 Summit, my head was spinning with one of the Board’s charges – to identify the most important outcome measures to add to the “Measurement Guidance Toolkit for Mentoring Programs”. The measurement toolkit is an invaluable resource for everyone involved in any type of mentoring evaluation. And I urge you – don’t just go to the site to quickly find a tool to measure depression or parent-child relationship quality. You should read, and re-read, the “Evaluation Guidance and Resources” section, which helps programs think about all the important elements involved in selecting and administering measures.

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