What are the benefits of being a peer mentor for Black and Hispanic high school students?
Opara, I., Metzger, I. W., Dawoud, S., Pierre, K., Assan, M. A., Garcia-Reid, P., & Reid, R. J. (2023). “It Makes Me Feel like I Can Make a Difference”: A Qualitative Exploration of Peer Mentoring with Black and Hispanic High School Students. Youth, 3(2), Article 2.
Summarized by Ariel Ervin
Notes of Interest:
- Although peer mentoring programs demonstrate how they benefit high school students, it’s unclear how they benefit mentors.
- This study explored Black and Hispanic mentors’ experiences and perceived benefits of peer mentoring.
- Three themes arose from the findings:
- Leadership abilities – Strengthened mentors’ leadership skills and confidence; provided them an opportunity to recognize the positive qualities that made them good mentors and leaders; having mentees that look up to them inspired mentors to keep mentoring
- Witnessing their strengths through motivating others – Encouraged mentors to become better role models, to improve how they perceived themselves, and to become more aware of their insecurities & fears and how to face them.
- Family influences – Many mentors discussed how their personal experiences with their families affected their mentoring roles and their ability to relate with their mentees.
- Developing meaningful relationships with mentees can improve mentors’ confidence, self-esteem, and leadership skills.
- Integrating peer mentoring programs in high schools can potentially promote positive youth development in underresourced communities.
Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)
Peer mentoring programs have proven to be extremely successful for high school students. Yet, most educational research studies rarely seek to understand the perspectives of peer mentors and the impact peer mentoring can have on their development. Even more limited is the research highlighting the experiences of Black and Hispanic peer mentors who reside in urban communities. This qualitative study examines (n = 14) Black and Hispanic high school peer mentors’ roles in providing support to their mentees and their perceived benefit of being a mentor. All peer mentors in the study attended high school in an urban, under resourced community in New Jersey. Analysis revealed three major themes: (1) leadership abilities; (2) witnessing their strengths through motivating others; and (3) Family influences on their mentoring style. We discuss the implications of our findings on future research and educational programming utilizing peer mentors to benefit urban youth of color.
Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)
Findings from this study provide insight into the impact of being a part of a peer mentoring program on a group of Black and Hispanic urban youth and suggest that the benefit of these programs is bidirectional. Specifically, participants’ awareness of their own leadership abilities, and how being a peer mentor shaped their view of self, was a main theme of the study. Although peer mentors are only a few years older than their peers, the role of being a peer mentor positively influenced their self-esteem, confidence, and leadership abilities. As suggested by our findings and consistent with the literature, peer mentorship programs can help high school students build meaningful connections and improve their self-worth through motivating others . First, peer mentors were able to identify leadership abilities within themselves that most were not initially aware they possessed. James et al. (2014) conducted a study among peer mentors in the United Kingdom and found similar results; peer mentors developed the ability to handle a range of possible scenarios, and the experience of mentoring itself required the development of problem-solving skills . It can be inferred that the experience of being a peer mentor supports youth to strengthen their leadership skills while also fostering positive development into adulthood. By giving youth at such a critical time of adolescence the ability to serve as a mentor and role model to their peers, programs such as these provide an opportunity for peer mentors to develop nurturing relationships and to become more mature in the process. According to youth empowerment research, leadership competency is a protective factor that is associated with positive developmental outcomes including improved self-esteem, confidence, higher educational attainment, and positive mental health outcomes among youth [42,43]. Secondly, peer mentors in the study identified their own individual strengths through their mentoring relationship which led to increased levels of self-worth and was a key motivating factor in continuing to inspire their peers. Consistent with research on the effects of peer mentoring from a mentors perspective, James et al. (2014) found in their study that youth who were involved in peer mentoring programs as mentors experienced personal growth, improved psychosocial wellbeing, and a sense of achievement. Peer mentoring programs can be incredibly valuable for both the mentor and mentee, providing opportunities for personal and social growth for both parties. Third, an interesting finding that emerged among the sample was the influence of family dynamics in their role as a peer mentor and their mentoring style. In addition to their interactions with their own siblings and family members, peer mentors in the study described how their own experiences of abandonment and trauma impacted how they related to their mentees. Douglas et al.  conducted a study with peer mentors who were affected by trauma and found that youth participants in their study tended to be motivated by their own lived experiences to motivate others through the act of being a peer mentor. While not all youth in the study described their experiences as being traumatic, peer mentors in the study collectively agreed that their experiences, their level of support from their families, and how they interacted with their siblings, all affected their ability and motivation to mentor. More research is needed on family dynamics and its specific role in the mentoring styles of young teen mentors.
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