Keeping Mentoring Connections in a Socially Distanced World

Findings From a Youth-Engaged Study of Virtually Adapted Mentoring Practices in Response to COVID-19

Posted February 15, 2023
By Equivolve Consulting
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Being mentored helps young people — particularly young people at risk — stay healthy and safe. Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic challenged traditional strategies for engaging youth and prompted mentoring models to evolve.

This report explores how both mentoring programs and mentors adapted to social-distancing guidelines during the pandemic. It addresses research questions related to the social-emotional effects of social isolation and virtual learning and explores the benefits and challenges of using virtual mentoring models. It also offers three key recommendations aimed at helping mentoring programs better serve youth from a distance. These recommendations are:

  1. Provide multiple methods for mentors to connect with mentees: telephone calls, text messages, video conferencing, and in-person interactions. Youth involved in this research appreciated the flexibility of virtual platforms and indicated that it allowed them to remain connected with their mentors despite geographic location.
  2. Give mentors guidance on how to incorporate interactive activities into meetings with their mentees, whether virtual or in person.
  3. Connect mentors to resources or other mentors for social support. Mentors involved in this study reported coping with their own challenges caused by the pandemic and may have benefited from support to prevent burnout and address retention issues.

The report ends by underscoring how innovative mentoring techniques can help youth-development organizations and programs better prepare for situations where remote support is required. It notes that the pandemic has inspired models to evolve in ways that could help mentoring programs become stronger, more agile and more sustainable over the long term.

Findings & Stats

Statements & Quotations

Key Takeaway

Virtual mentoring is an imperfect but viable option for supporting youth during the pandemic

Mentors provided youth with a space to discuss challenges around the pandemic, virtual schooling and familial relationships. Regular check-ins gave young people opportunities to explore issues that they were not eager to discuss with their parents or other adults. And, while the virtual medium didn’t click for everyone, mentors who incorporated interactive activities or some in-person interactions seemed to have the most success in engaging youth.