The school year is fast approaching. Some of you probably have already recruited your Check & Connect mentors, and some may still be in the process. Here we provide a few tips for recruiting mentors, whether they’re hired mentors or existing staff.
As a site coordinator, you’ve probably decided which mentor model you’re using (hiring dedicated FT mentors, inviting existing staff to serve as mentors, working with community volunteers such as AmeriCorps or Promise Fellows to serve as mentors, or a combination of the above). (See pros and cons of each at Check & Connect Implementation Options.)
If you haven’t yet recruited your mentors, you’ll want to revisit the Preparation Stage, Step 3: Select or Hire Mentors in the Check & Connect manual, Implementing With Fidelity (pp. 31-34). One of our favorite pieces of information in that stage is the desirable characteristics of mentors. Remember that mentors should have:
- A personal belief that all students, particularly those living in at-risk circumstances, have abilities and strengths, and can learn;
- A personal belief that students can make progress and change their level of engagement at school and with learning;
- A belief in the power and value of problem solving with students to develop personal competencies;
- The willingness to persist with students, despite their behavior and decision-making;
- A willingness to cooperate and collaborate with families and school staff;
- Advocacy skills, including the ability to negotiate, compromise, and confront conflict;
- Organizational and case management skills;
- A nonjudgmental attitude toward others;
- An ability to work independently in a variety of settings; and
- A willingness to be a mentor (i.e., “wanting to rather than being obligated to”).
You can also find a sample Check & Connect mentor job description, guidelines for the interview process, and considerations for staffing the position with existing school personnel in pp. 32-33 of the manual.
Supporting Existing Staff / Mentors
If you’re staffing Check & Connect with existing staff, you’re not alone. Many sites are going this route. But with everyone having so much to do each day, think about ways you can support existing staff in their mentor role for their hard work. For staff who take on a larger caseload (e.g., 5 or more students), we recommend providing a small stipend. For staff who may have a small handful of students, you can show your support and appreciation in many different ways—
- Have mentors relieved of a duty before, during, or after school;
- Cover their class (or ask an administrator to) so they can meet with mentees;
- Host a “thank you” breakfast or lunch;
- Provide coupons from local restaurants or movie theaters for mentors (many businesses are happy to donate);
- Allow mentors an additional Spirit day (possibly even with mentor specific t-shirts);
- Bring them a coffee, soda or treat; and
- Take the time to put a thank you note in their box.
If you have the right mentors (i.e., they have the above characteristics), they will agree to be mentors because they’re passionate about students, not necessarily because of your incentives or compensation. Remember that their hard work is worth a “Thanks!” and “Good job!”
- Check & Connect Implementation Options and Tips for Funding
- Check & Connect manual, Implementing With Fidelity
- C&C blog post, Recruiting & Retaining Mentors: Site Coordinators Share Ideas
About the Authors: Jana Hallas, M.Ed., is a project coordinator and member of the Check & Connect training team at the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota. Megan Dushin is the communications coordinator for Check & Connect at the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota.
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