Tutor/Mentor Connection

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Frequently Asked Questions About Mentoring

Is Mentoring for You?

If you are new to mentoring, it's natural to have questions about what it's all about, what your experience will be like and whether or not mentoring is the right volunteer opportunity for you in the Chicagoland area. Below are some answers to questions you might have, but it's not possible to think of every question you might have. So, if you need more information, please email Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection at info1@cabriniconnections.net or give us a call at (312) 492-9614. We're here to help!

Does Mentoring Take a Lot of Time?

Many programs in the Chicago area do require that volunteers commit to the program for one year; usually for about an hour per week. A long-term commitment provides the most benefits to the child. However, most mentoring programs will work with the volunteer to find the most convenient time for the mentor-mentee meetings. Schedule and time commitment also depends on the type of program. For example, school-based programs meet at the school, during the school day, while site- or community-based programs may meet at a community center, after school, or on the weekends.

Do I Need any Special Skills to be a Mentor?

The most effective mentors are those who are patient, committed, and willing to listen to their mentee. Mentoring volunteers do not need to be perfect, rich, or a superstar. Mentors simply need to be willing to help a young person by being a consistent, caring adult; someone who will help them problem solve, practice good communication and introduce them to new experiences and ideas.

Is Mentoring a Lifetime Commitment?

Some mentoring relationships last for many years, others do not. In a formal mentoring relationship, it is always best to follow the guidelines of the mentoring program, the program will have established beginning and ending dates. For example, a school-based mentor will commit to one school year (September through May). If you would like your mentoring relationship to continue after the program has officially ended, you (or your mentee) can speak with the program staff member about signing up for another year commitment.

Are schools where mentors are needed failing? Are the communities where these children live safe?

Of all the young people who need a mentor, many face challenging circumstances such as poverty, inadequate health care, parental incarceration, or an unstable home life. Others simply lack access to experiences and resources outside their neighborhoods, or need more encouragement and attention in school. Even those students who do not face challenging circumstances can benefit from a caring adult mentor - someone who says, "I believe in you." Remember that all schools are staffed by dedicated and hard-working educators who are trying to find the best solutions to meet the needs of their students.

Will Mentoring Cost Me Money?

Most mentoring programs require very little to no monetary commitment from a mentor. Usually gift giving is discouraged, unless it has been approved by the program coordinator or the gift can be shared with all mentees in the program (e.g., a snack or goodie bag at an end of year celebration). Volunteers should not feel pressured to take mentees on trips, on expensive outings, or buy birthday gifts. Ask your mentoring program coordinator for creative, low-cost, and fun activities to do with your mentee.

Does Mentoring Make a Difference?

Children have the potential to succeed in life and contribute to society. However, not all children get the support they need to thrive. Mentoring benefits youth in many ways such as:

•Improving self-esteem
•Keeping young people in school
•Helping to improve academic skills
•Leading young people to resources they might not find on their own
•Providing support for new behaviors, attitudes and ambitions
•Increasing young people's ability to seek and keep jobs
•Enhancing parenting skills


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Comment by Bradley Troast on March 2, 2010 at 5:28pm
This is a great FAQ sheet. And, remember, you can use the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator to find just the right program for you, based on age, location, type of interaction, etc.

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