Podcast: Rooted in Relationships
Episode: 2.6 – Mentorship is a Rich Opportunity for Positive Development from Youth to Adulthood
From Search Institute
Welcome back to season two of the Rooted in Relationships podcast, where we talk with renowned researchers and experts to explore how connections to resources, relationships and social networks provide the key conditions that all young people need to thrive. As the episode begins, Search Institute CEO Ben Houltberg introduces Kent Pekel, education leader and former CEO of Search Institute, and guide for this season’s interviews. Today, Kent has a conversation with Dr. Jean Rhodes, the Frank R. Boyden Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. The conversation focuses on the role of intergenerational relationships and mentorship in the development of young people.
As the episode gets underway, Jean shares about how she got to be who she is now – a leader in her field with accomplishments as a practitioner, researcher, author, and more. As a Ph.D. student, she first began to pick up on the under-explored theme of mentored youth demonstrating more favorable outcomes in various areas than their counterparts without mentors. Her piqued interest, along with her own positive experiences with mentorship and the aid of a couple grants, drove her forward into what became her field. Now, years later, she is as one of her book titles implies, Older and Wiser. She has slowly learned, for one thing, that a proper concept of mentorship needs to involve targeted, evidence-based practice on top of a working relationship.
Along with the fact that both personal connection and intentional development toward some goals are necessary to a mentoring relationship, Jean has learned about the wrongheadedness of considering volunteer mentorship inherently better than paid mentorship. Motivation should be made explicit, she argues, but mentors should not be shamed for having motives other than the simple goal of mentoring. After all, teachers are paid, but this in no way keeps them from being able to form true and helpful bonds with students! Additionally, Jean explains, the field of mentorship needs to equip paraprofessionals to function as mentors. To do so, the field needs to provide technology-delivered training that will allow paraprofessionals to function as curators rather than creators of the content.
Jean herself has a hand in the development of technological resources, and specifically of the MentorHub app. The app is a platform for supportive accountability, and it continues to grow and develop in order to best help users. Users, and more generally all young people who would benefit from mentorship, have unique needs. Because of this, Jean goes on to explain why she prefers to think of helping young people on a continuum, rather than as a simple question of natural versus traditional mentoring. This reality, the preciousness of mentors as a resource, and the importance of seeking youth out rather than just expecting them to initiate mentorship all lead Jean to the persuasion that mentoring must be managed strategically by situation in order to maximize available resources.
Moving forward, Jean and Kent discuss Jean’s recent blog post on differences in relationships in voluntary and involuntary settings. Ultimately, Jean describes the importance of “stocking the pond”; in other words, bring caring adults into settings like schools, and make more efforts to extract kids for mentoring relationships. Ingraining caring adults into places where kids learn is an excellent way to have a positive impact. However, if Jean could influence the thinking of one actor in the systems that influence kids, shifting one pressure point, she would make strides to offer certification in therapeutic mentoring on a national level. She is working on certification efforts of her own as she grows her technological reach, but there is far more ground to cover!
As the episode wraps up, Jean shares what makes her hopeful: the child tax credit, with its promise to help alleviate some childhood poverty!
To listen to the episode, please click here.