Study highlights mentoring in the context of Latino youth’s broader village during their transition from high school

Sánchez, Esparza, Berardi & Pryce (2011). Mentoring in the context of Latino youth’s broader village during their transition from high school. Youth and Society, 43(1), 225-252. (Summarized by UMB graduate student Stella Kanchewa)

This study highlights the benefits of having supportive figures, or natural mentors, particularly at major transitions in youths’ lives. The mostly Latino sample youth was transitioning from a high school with a 53% graduation rate, underscoring the need for a variety of natural mentors who could provide different types of support as the youth’s needs changed.


Few studies have explored the role of mentoring relationships during developmental transitions and within the larger context of youth’s existing social networks. In this study, Bernadette Sanchez and her colleagues explored the role of mentoring in the lives of urban, low-income Latino youth during the transition from high school to college or the workforce. In addition, the authors examined the relationship between mentoring experiences and youth’s social networks.


Data were collected at the end of youth’s senior year of high school. Youth were asked to identify up to three mentors and were then asked questions about the mentors and the relationship. Qualitative data on the most important mentor were collected approximately one year later. Youth in the study, 32 in total, were from an urban, public high school (population 95% Latino, 4% African-American) in a major Midwest city.


At both time points (end of high school and one year later) over half of youth identified a mentor. The average relationship duration with these identified mentors was about 10 to 12 years, and most youth reported interacting with the mentor(s) on a daily or weekly basis. Mentors provided various forms of support (e.g., emotional, tangible, direct guidance, role modeling and informational); however at the time of graduation, emotional support was the most frequent type of support to be reported, whereas one after graduation directive guidance was often reported.

Quantitative findings revealed three groups into which youth’s mentoring experiences were categorized.

  • Youth in the long-term mentored group identified a mentor at both time points.
  • Youth in the change-in-mentored-status group identified a mentor only at one of the time points. Reasons for changes in status, particularly for individuals who had a mentor at graduation but not one year later, included changes  in context (e.g., moving for college), youths’ needs, and mentors’ availability.
  • Lastly, youth in the non-mentored group did not identity a mentor at any point.

Differences emerged in the social networks of the three outlined groups.

Youth in the long-term mentored group had a variety of individuals across several domains who provided different forms of support. For example, one participant in the long-term mentored group discussed how her boss helped her with money management so that she could pursue college, “…every week he takes half of my paycheck and…he just saves it for me, and when the payments come, [he] gives me the money. And that helps me a lot. Yeah, you know, sometimes you spend money without knowing. At least I’ll know I got my money for the semester.”

Youth in the change-in-mentored-status and non-mentored group had social networks that were “limited in scope, variety and resources.” More specifically, their social networks often only included immediate family, and the type of support they received was vague in nature.


Findings indicated that youth in long-term mentoring relationships had broader, more varied social networks from which to recruit support; however, as the authors note, it is difficult to discern the direction of the relationship between youths’ mentoring relationships and existing social networks.


This study focused on natural mentoring; however, the findings have implications for formal mentoring programs and efforts to provide mentoring relationships to youth from diverse backgrounds and circumstances. Programs could assess youth’s existing social networks prior to matching, through the use of a short screening tool, in order to prioritize the needs of youth with limited or nonexistent social networks and help them to develop skills for accessing support. Findings from this study also provide insight into how formal mentoring programs could better serve Latino youth, particularly around the transition from high school in order to support positive development.