Youth mentoring relies on the power of human connections. Maintaining those connections in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic may be challenging, but it is an important and worthwhile effort. As President Trump said, “Mentors serve not only as role models for young people but also as an inspiration to dream big and pursue any goal—regardless of circumstance.”
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has funded mentoring programs for more than two decades, and continues to support them during this public health emergency. OJJDP’s partners have risen to the occasion and we have been inspired by their dedication, creativity, and adaptability. The following are a few examples of how our grantees are using innovative strategies and technology to help ensure that mentors across the nation can continue to assist youth with homework, listen to and advise their mentees, and guide and inspire youth safely and effectively.
MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership is developing a comprehensive set of resources and tips to help youth mentoring programs throughout the country implement new approaches and continue operations during this crisis. MENTOR is also working with iCouldBe, an e-mentoring platform, to expand and enhance virtual mentoring. iCouldBe is providing their platform free of charge to the mentoring field nationwide. A variety of corporate partners—including AT&T, Comcast, and Zoom—are donating resources to fill IT and Wi-Fi needs, so as many youth as possible can stay connected in this time of social distancing.
Organizations are also converting their curricula to a virtual environment and sharing it with other mentoring organizations. For example, Sea Research Foundation is providing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) mentoring through the Mystic Aquarium. The learning opportunities are now available online through OJJDP’s National Mentoring Resource Center.
Additionally, some local chapters of Boys & Girls Clubs are acting as emergency childcare centers for essential workers. Big Brothers Big Sisters, another OJJDP grantee, is planning to launch a large-scale virtual mentoring curriculum called Mentoring 2.0.
To continue to support the field, OJJDP will be ramping up its already robust webinar schedule. Through webinars, websites and other resources, we are committed to ensuring that the dedicated staff and volunteers providing mentoring services across this country receive the education and resources they need.
As we navigate this period of uncertainty together, OJJDP is here to help and serve you and your community. You can find OJJDP’s available funding opportunities here and a list of resources below.
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