What are the motivations, program support, and personal growth that occur within cross-racial mentoring relationships with Black youth?

Jones, K., Parra-Cardona, R., Sánchez, B., Vohra-Gupta, S., & Franklin, C. (2023). Motivations, program support, and personal growth: Mentors perspectives on the reciprocal benefits of cross-racial mentoring relationships with Black youth. Children and Youth Services Review, 106996. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2023.106996

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest:

  • Although Black youths are the most significant demographic of young people who receive community-based mentoring (CBM) in America, they often get paired with mentors with different racial or ethnic identities, social classes, or cultural backgrounds.
  • Given the prevalence of cross-racial mentorships, programs need to ensure that they are bridging gaps in cultural differences and promoting cultural trust to ensure the sustainability of relationships.
  • This study evaluates a) how mentor experiences & motivations impact their relationships with their mentees, b) which program components supported mentors, and c) how mentors experienced personal growth.
  • Theme 1: Personal factors influence the desire to mentor and interactions within relationships
    • Mentors wanted to make a difference in other people’s lives, impart lessons they’ve learned to their mentees, and give back to their communities.
    • Mentors’ values, personal experiences, and major life events play an important role in how they approached their relationships with their mentees.
  • Theme 2: Identifying essential program components in the relationship
    • Screening, matching, staff check-ins, and policies were important program components in mentoring relationships. Providing additional outlets for mentoring activities was also helpful (e.g., giving mentors access to different community events).
    • Program staff adhered to guidelines in matching mentors with youths with similar personality traits and interests to encourage connections.
    • Although the mentors appreciated the initial cultural sensitivity training, they needed more support throughout the program to handle discussions about race and culture.
    • Some mentors didn’t utilize program support because of their mentees’ personalities or ages.
  • Theme 3: Gaining new perspectives and awareness
    • Bonding with mentees exposed mentors to new viewpoints, interests, and ideas in ways that strengthened their personal growth.
    • Interacting with mentees made mentors more aware of their privileges and improved communication skills.
    • Many mentors felt like family members.
  • There are many benefits of becoming a mentor. Not only does it provide an opportunity to give back to the community, but it also provides a chance to get to know the people who are part of it.
  • Future studies need to consider how the quantity of training and support for non-Black mentors influence mentors’ abilities to address racial differences with their mentees.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Community-based mentoring (CBM) programs are popular interventions for promoting positive youth development outcomes for Black youth, however, many youth mentoring relationships in CBM programs (e.g., Big Brothers Big Sisters) are characterized by cross-racial matches. There is scarce research describing how mentors’ motivations and life experiences influence interactions with their mentee, the program components that supported them as mentors, and the perceived benefits they attribute to participating in cross-racial mentoring relationship. Using a constructivist grounded theory approach, 28 interviews were conducted with current and former mentors from six different Big Brothers Big Sisters community-based mentoring programs across the United States. The findings highlight specific factors that motivate individuals to volunteer their time as a mentor, mentoring program components mentors found helpful throughout the relationship, and the benefits they receive from engaging in a cross-racial mentoring relationship with Black youth.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

This study entailed a variety of research aims. The first aim of this study was to illustrate how the motivations and life experiences of non-Black volunteer mentors in CBM programs impact the mentoring relationship. The second aim focused highlighting how the program components supported non-Black mentors during their cross-racial mentoring relationship with a Black youth. The final aim of this study focused on illuminating the personal growth non-Black mentors achieve as a result of engaging with a mentoring relationship a Black youth and their family. Using GCT, the reciprocal nature of mentoring relationship is highlighted by uncovering how non-Black mentors’ motivations and personal factors influenced interactions within the relationship, identifying program components which supported the mentor in the mentoring relationship, and mentors’ perceived personal growth and increased social awareness resulting from mentoring Black youth.

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