School-based Group Mentoring Can Promote Resilience in Vulnerable High School Students

Kuperminc, G. P., Chan, W. Y., Hale, K. E., Joseph, H. L., & Delbasso, C. A. (2020). The Role of School-based Group Mentoring in Promoting Resilience among Vulnerable High School Students. American Journal of Community Psychology, 65(1–2), 136–148.

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest: 

  • The limited research on group mentoring shows it can help foster positive academic, psychological, and behavioral outcomes for youth
  • The current study examined the impact that internal resilience assets and youth external resources have through Project Arrive (PA)–a school-based mentoring program aimed to help high-risk, high school freshmen increase resilience
  • Strong, positive effects were found for PA participants in comparison to youth with similar risks in schools of the same district who not in the program
    • This was mostly at the level of scores on external resources (e.g. school support, school belonging, & home meaningful participants)
  • However, findings didn’t show many program effects, in terms of internal resilience assets (e.g. self-efficiency, empathy, & self-awareness); intervention participants scored higher on problem solving  
  • The outcomes of PA demonstrate that group mentoring is a promising approach in increasing external resilience of youths at risk of dropping out of school

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

This study examined the role of participation in a year‐long school‐based group mentoring program, Project Arrive (PA), on increasing resilience during the first year of high school among students identified as being at high risk for school dropout. Participants were 114, ninth grade students taking part in one of 32 PA mentoring groups, and 71 statistically matched comparison students (53% male, 75% eligible for free/reduced‐price lunch, 62% Latinx). Using a propensity score with inverse probability of treatment weighting (IPTW) to reduce selection bias, and a multi‐level model to account for non‐independence of data within mentoring groups, we examined changes from pre‐test to program exit on seven external resilience resources (developmental supports and opportunities) and four internal resilience assets (personal strengths). At program exit, PA participants had higher adjusted means than comparisons on six external resources, including school support, school belonging, school meaningful participation, peer caring relationships, prosocial peers, and home meaningful participation. PA participants also had higher adjusted means on one internal asset, problem solving. Results point to the promise of group mentoring as an approach for increasing resilience among academically vulnerable adolescents.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

This study examined program related effects on internal resilience assets and external resources for youth participating in a school‐based mentoring program relative to a comparison group of students with similar risk factors who attended schools within the same district that did not offer the program. Overall, there were strong effects favoring PA program participants for external resources including school support, school belonging, school meaningful participation, peer caring relationships, prosocial peers, and home meaningful participation. Similarly, Herrera, Vang, and Gale (2002) found mentor and self‐reported improvements in social skills and relationships with others, in one of the first studies focused on group mentoring. There was some evidence that effects extended beyond school to the home context: Youth participating in PA reported somewhat more positive perceptions of meaningful participation at home than comparisons. The program may have helped PA youth feel that their contributions at home were more valuable, even though they did not report experiencing more support from their families. The social context of group mentoring affords multiple opportunities for mentors to model positive social interactions and for youth both to participate in and witness a wide array of interactions among and between youth and mentors (Kuperminc & Thomason, 2013); these experiences may make group mentoring particularly well suited to building external resources.

In contrast to the findings for external resources, there was little evidence of program effects on internal assets, with the exception of problem solving. Relative to comparisons, PA participants reported that they were more likely to write about or talk through their problems with others and knew where to go for help with a problem. Improvement in problem solving skills was likely a result of mentees’ experiences in groups which often included goal setting discussions and activities, peer relationships, transition to high school, and family relationships. These findings are consistent with Constantine, Benard, Diaz, and Constantine (1999) suggestion that the development of internal assets occurs as a result of transactions between individuals and positive environmental contexts (e.g., family, school, peers, community). It is possible that program‐related short‐term improvements in external assets can help to set the stage for eventual increases in internal assets. Longitudinal research with more extended follow‐up is needed to test this possibility. Achieving gains in internal assets might also require intentional programming designed to foster internal assets such as self‐confidence and mastery motivation. For example, brief interventions to promote mastery motivation, often referred to as a “growth mindset,” have proven to be effective for youth experiencing academic risk and could be implemented within the context of mentoring programs (Paunesku et al., 2015). Also, interventions to build skills in effective help‐seeking and expanding social capital networks (Schwartz & Rhodes, 2016) can be incorporated as a strategy to sustain long‐term effects, even after youth are no longer actively involved in the program.


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