MENTOR works to advance equity and close the mentoring gap because we believe all young people deserve the opportunity to explore and fulfill their potential. We create solutions that prioritize relationships for young people, help volunteers find youth mentoring opportunities, and leverage the diverse expertise of staff, youth, and local Affiliates to develop resources for quality mentoring, including the foundational Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring. As we mark National Mentoring Day in October, and soon National Mentoring Month in January, we’re continuing our focus on expanding access to meaningful connections for young people within the digital environment – helping ensure that physical distance does not lead to social disconnection.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic began in the U.S., most mentors met their mentees in-person. The in-person meetups allowed for private communication and variety in location and activities. Shortly after the country began social distancing to curb the impact of COVID-19, youth mentoring programs began to migrate online. Organizations that lacked access to secure, reliable, and affordable tech resources suspended their programs.

After a survey of the mentoring field at the beginning of the pandemic, MENTOR learned that 90% of mentoring programs would be interested in a free and established e-mentoring platform, and 88% were interested in a platform that provided safe and monitored communications between mentors and mentees.

In response, MENTOR partnered with iCouldBe and CricketTogether, two long-time partners and leaders in the virtual mentoring space, to launch the Virtual Mentoring Portals. These free and secure platforms allow programs to provide an unstructured or structured environment for existing mentee and mentor pairs to meet digitally. These platforms also enable volunteers to meet with students for more informal mentoring opportunities. Within one week, we saw interest from a collective of mentoring programs that serve over 40,000 youth.

Read the full article about virtual mentoring by Melissa Hines at Charity Navigator.