Round Up: National Mentoring Month 2024

By: Leslie M. Booren


  • January is National Mentoring Month and we are revisiting our archives from the last year.
  • Summarized are the news stories, blog posts and research articles published in the last 12 months, each advancing our understanding of effective mentoring.
  • Highlighted below are resources associated with youth mentoring, the various sources of mentoring, and adult professional mentoring.
Source: Canva

Researchers at Youth-Nex and the UVA School of Education and Human Development are contributing to a growing body of research on how and why effective mentoring works, as highlighted in this 2024 national mentoring month round-up.

Youth Mentoring

  • Addressing Youth Loneliness: Close youth mentoring relationships can improve mentees’ relationships with other people and their sense of loneliness. In this study, researchers evaluated the relationship between youth mentoring participation and peer social acceptance. Findings suggest that mentoring relationships are the most beneficial for mentees who have fewer relationships but do not necessarily feel lonely. Read Blog Post.
  • Young Women Leaders Program: The Young Women Leaders Program (YWLP) is a community-based mentoring program that pairs undergraduate women with middle school girls. Olivia, a 19-year-old, participated in the program as a middle schooler mentee and now as a UVA undergraduate college mentor. In a Vlog, Olivia shares more about her experiences in YWLP, and some advice for adults and youth who may want to participate in mentoring programs. Watch Youth-Nex Vlog.
  • Caregivers & Natural Mentoring Relationships: A change that occurs during adolescence is the development of close relationships outside of the immediate family unit. This study examined pathways between Black adolescents’ attachment to their parents and the quantity of natural mentors, or other youth and adult relationships in their pre-existing social networks. These Youth-Nex researchers found that more secure parent-adolescent attachment predicted a greater quantity of natural mentoring relationships. Read Article.

Sources of Mentoring

  • Community-Based Mentoring: Youth today face challenges of loneliness and isolation, impacting mental health negatively. Community mentoring programs are one possible solution. In this post, a Youth-Nex & EHD graduate student share more about how mentoring programs should consider the limitations of one-on-one relationships and adopt a comprehensive approach to maximize their impact. Read Blog Post.
  • Informal Mentors & Academic Success: There is little research recognizing pathways through which schools promote human capital development – by fostering informal mentoring relationships between students and their teachers, counselors, and coaches. This study, conducted by a Youth-Nex researcher and colleagues, used longitudinal data from a nationally representative sample of adolescents. Findings suggest that informal mentoring supports students’ long-run academic success, especially for students of lower socioeconomic status. Read Article.
  • Social Support in Mentoring Relationships: Social support is associated with positive physical and psychological health outcomes for youth. This qualitative study examined the sources, forms, and functions of social support youth receive from natural mentoring relationships in their lives. Findings suggest that different types of adults had the capacity to provide different types of support, and their support differed based on the adult’s role with the youth. Read Article.

Adult Professional Mentoring

  • Telementoring: School-based mental health providers play an important role in supporting students, especially at a time when evidence suggests students have increasing needs. This year, a team of our researchers published an article about a telementoring model that is a low-cost, flexible way for school mental health professionals to access professional learning. The findings support the use of telementoring to improve school mental health professionals’ understanding and application of the evidence-based school counseling model. Read Article.

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Leslie M. Booren is the Associate Director for Communications and Operations at Youth-Nex and the Youth-Nex blog editor. In this role, she manages operations, HR, events, communications and marketing for the center. Previously she has worked at the Center for Race and Public Education in the South (CRPES), EdPolicyWorks, and the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) in various roles from research faculty to managing director. She has a strong interest in community and youth development by bridging applied and research-based practices.

Mentoring Matters, Especially for Young Women

By: Olivia, 19-year-old


  • The Young Women Leaders Program (or YWLP) is a community-based mentoring program that pairs undergraduate women with middle school girls.
  • I participated in this program as a middle schooler mentee and now as an undergraduate college mentor.
  • In this video blog for National Mentoring Month, I share more about my experiences in YWLP, and some advice for adults and youth who may want to participate in mentoring programs.

My name is Olivia and I am a mentor in the Young Women Leaders Program (or YWLP). YWLP is a community-based mentoring program that pairs UVA undergraduate women with middle school girls from the Charlottesville area. I have participated in YWLP both as a mentee in middle school and now as an undergraduate mentor while I’m studying at UVA!

YWLP is unique because it combines one-on-one mentoring with group activities that address girls’ sense of self, scholastic achievement, body image, peer relationships, and healthy decision-making. I know firsthand how YWLP empowers middle school girls as leaders in their schools and communities!

Importance of Mentoring Programs

From my experience, I think that mentoring programs are important because it helps ground both youth and the adult mentors. Being a mentor allows us to reconnect with parts of ourselves that we may have forgotten or lost along the way. For example, giving yourself time to live in that childish energy and relate to young people can be important. When we get older, we forget to do that!

So by being a mentor, youth can remind you how to relax and have fun. But also for the youth, they have someone to help ground and guide them. Mentoring is important for both adults and young people!

My Advice for Adults

To the adults out there that are hesitant in joining a mentoring program, I say just get involved and just do it! Although you may be nervous in the beginning, you have to trust yourself that you are going in with the best intention. Trust that the youth will also go into a mentoring relationship to learn with you.

To ensure you have a positive experience, my advice before going into a mentoring relationship is to:

  • Reflect on yourself.
  • Ask yourself why you want to get involved.
  • Think about what you want to gain from this experience.
  • Consider what you have to offer.
  • Avoid being nervous!

Remember, just have fun! Mentoring is supposed to be an enjoyable experience; it can help you connect with others, and it doesn’t have to always be serious. It is OK to just spend time with youth just so they have a better day, and it doesn’t have to be that you are changing their life. You can learn a lot by just having fun!

This approach actually does exist today, when people discuss varied cultural backgrounds. People allow for differences in attitudes, traditions, foods, clothing, and practices, without trying to force their own views. It has been hard to allow for such debates in the political sphere since the discussion there seems to want to define the “uniquely best American way”. It’s time that the schools taught us again that we are all Americans, even if we have different views.

YWLP, and their big brother program the Men’s Leadership Project (MLP), are accepting mentors or bigs for their programs next year! YWLP is open to marginalized genders including anyone who identifies as a woman or girl, and non-binary and gender non-conforming people who are comfortable in a space that centers the experiences of women and girls. We encourage students from a variety of backgrounds and identities to apply to the Young Women Leaders Program! For more information about YWLP or to donate, please visit their website.

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: My name is Olivia Thompson and I’m a second year at UVA majoring in Sociology and hoping to double major in Spanish. I’m from Louisa, VA. I grew up in a small town and moved around a lot. I plan to go to grad school in the future and hope to eventually become a licensed clinical social worker. I want to live a life based around service and use what I’ve learned from those who have guided me to give back to not only my community, but communities that exist outside of me.

Supporting Youth Loneliness & Social Isolation through Community-Based Mentoring

By: Westley Fallavollita


  • Youth today face challenges of loneliness and isolation, impacting mental health negatively. Reports from the U.S. Surgeon General emphasize changing ways of building relationships, leading to issues like depression and substance use.
  • Community mentoring programs are one possible solution, but challenges like trust issues and diverse backgrounds require a personalized approach. Inclusive training for mentors and activities promoting community engagement can help address these issues.
  • To maximize the impact, mentoring programs should consider the limitations of one-on-one relationships and adopt a comprehensive approach. This includes recognizing the importance of peer relationships during adolescence, integrating community activities, and providing evidence-based support to empower lonely and isolated youth.
Source: Canva

Loneliness and social isolation are big challenges facing youth today. The U.S. Surgeon General recently released reports on the importance of protecting youth mental health[1] and the epidemic of loneliness and isolation[2]. One common theme between these reports is that typical ways of connecting and building relationships are changing, and youth mental health is suffering as a result. This has important implications because youth loneliness and social isolation are associated with negative outcomes such as depression, substance use, and suicide attempts. For other youth, the desire for a sense of belonging and acceptance can lead to associating with delinquent peer groups or antisocial behaviors, leading to early and avoidable encounters with the juvenile justice system. There’s a growing interest in how community-based programs like youth mentoring can provide support. Researchers have suggested that community-based mentoring programs could be a good strategy to prevent youth loneliness and social isolation because of the focus on building strong mentor-mentee relationships[3]. However, loneliness and social isolation are complex and influenced by many individual factors among young people. A strong mentoring relationship alone may not be enough to fix loneliness and social isolation, but engaging in specific mentoring program practices and activities could help. Such approaches could also enhance community-based youth mentoring programs by making them more inclusive, and creating more opportunities for youth to build relationships with peers and become involved in their community. The following discussion will describe some of the challenges of close mentoring relationships alone and opportunities for specific mentoring program practices to support lonely and socially isolated youth.

While mentoring relationships have the potential to help prevent loneliness and social isolation from taking hold, there are limitations to how much a close mentoring relationship can help mentees who are particularly vulnerable or already experiencing these challenges. Youth who have been bullied by peers or experienced difficult relationships with adults may be uncomfortable forming a relationship with a mentor due to trust issues, fear of rejection, or low self-esteem. Mentors and mentees with dissimilar backgrounds, life experiences, and racial identities may encounter additional difficulties such as differences in perspectives on handling life challenges, communication styles, and social networks. Other youth whose feelings of loneliness derive from neurodivergence or other developmental differences might struggle with the social communication differences needed to form new connections, sensory sensitivities that make mentoring activities uncomfortable, or social anxiety that impacts their ability to engage in mentorship. For LGBTQ+ youth, fear of discrimination, absence of parental support, or mentor lack of understanding can contribute to difficulties achieving a safe and affirming mentor-mentee relationship. All these individual circumstances can contribute to feelings of loneliness and social isolation, so addressing these challenges requires a thoughtful and individualized approach. While mentors can not be trained to work with all possible intersections of youth identity, they can be trained to approach their mentoring relationships with cultural humility, openness, and a commitment to fostering safety and belonging.

Mentoring programs play a crucial role in preparing mentors to effectively engage with vulnerable youth. To support mentors in their efforts to engage with youth who are prone to loneliness and social isolation, community-based mentoring programs should focus on training mentors in inclusive and affirming practices. Cultural humility training is crucial for efforts to build trust and effective communication with mentees, and training in this area can help mentors address stereotypes, identify their implicit biases, and navigate microaggressions. Similarly, trauma-informed mentorship training can help mentors approach their mentees with sensitivity and understanding, creating feelings of safety and trust, and supporting appropriate responses to personal disclosures. Such toolkits can be found online, such as the trauma informed-mentoring toolkit offered by the OJJDP (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention)[4]. Mentoring programs can also support mentors through regular check-ins and the creation of support networks with other mentors. Regular meetings with program coordinators and other mentors in the program create the opportunity to share challenges, receive feedback, and enhance collective knowledge. While it is a challenge to prepare mentors for the many different ways youth may come to struggle with loneliness and social isolation, inclusive program design and support for mentors’ ongoing professional development will help mentors be sensitive to the unique needs of their mentee and tailor an individualized approach to creating a close relationship.

Another important factor to consider when employing mentoring to support lonely and socially isolated youth is the developmental shift towards same-aged peers that occurs during adolescence[5]. Beginning in late childhood and early adolescence, acceptance or rejection by peers, not adults, becomes central to feelings of belonging and self-esteem. Even with a close mentoring relationship, feelings of loneliness and social isolation will still exist if there are challenges with peer relationships. These feelings can be particularly pronounced for bullied or otherwise peer-rejected children, where a close mentoring relationship will not alleviate the negative effects of ongoing rejection by peers. Similarly, peer relationships can be disrupted by significant life transitions, such as entering a new school or relocating to a new home. Other youth face systemic barriers to peer relationships, such as poverty that contributes to less opportunities and out-of-school activities, or having a different identity in a highly homogenous community. Such structural challenges suggest the need for additional supports to help some mentees develop peer relationships. To support such lonely and socially isolated mentees, mentor-mentee relationships need to extend beyond the individual mentor-mentee pair, and build a network of peer and community connections.

Community-based mentoring programs can support peer relationships and community connectedness by integrating specific activities and approaches into their mentoring programs. Mentoring activities that involve community engagement and service-learning opportunities, such as volunteer work or participating in community events, can alleviate loneliness and social isolation by fostering a sense of purpose, connection, and social responsibility. If done in tandem with other mentor-mentee pairs, this approach can create a shared experience and relationships among mentees, which mentors can support by facilitating reflections and peer discussions. In general, group mentoring and joint outings create opportunities for mentees to network with each other, build a sense of community, and for natural peer-mentoring relationships to emerge. If mentee’s have challenges during these activities, the close relationship with their mentor can be a “secure base” for safety and emotional support, in line with the importance of attachment in a close mentoring relationship.

In tandem, mentoring programs can incorporate empirically supported activities into their programming. These evidence-based activities would support mentee interpersonal effectiveness, which could help with feelings of loneliness and social isolation, in addition to supporting positive development more generally. The type of curricula could be selected by program administrators to meet the needs of the mentee population. Some youth might benefit from a social-emotional learning curricula[6], whereas others may benefit more from support for emotional regulation challenges such as through DBT Steps-A[7]. While these programs could theoretically be administered individually by mentors, training individual mentors in evidence-based curricula would be difficult in practice. Instead, instruction could be facilitated by mentoring program staff (in a group setting!) or through an online curriculum, and mentors could support youth through follow up conversations that emphasize skill-building, goal setting, tracking progress, and other positive youth development approaches. Mentee investment in such activities would benefit from a close mentor-mentee relationship, and mentors could encourage mentees to apply these skills to peer relationships and community involvement to reduce loneliness and social isolation.

By acknowledging the limitations of the mentoring relationship in certain contexts and supplementing it with complementary strategies, community mentoring could become an important service to address youth loneliness and social isolation. However, the mentoring relationship alone may not be a powerful enough corrective experience for youth already experiencing such feelings[8]. To maximize mentoring’s potential, it may be important to adopt a comprehensive approach that combines mentoring relationships with complementary strategies to help youth to build relationships with peers and become involved in their community. This approach may be especially important for youth who are particularly vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation, or require additional support due to structural disadvantages like poverty. By adopting inclusive training practices and complementary activities, mentoring programs can foster supportive relationships and community connections, while also empowering lonely and socially isolated youth with resilience, coping strategies, and a sense of belonging.

This post originally appeared on the National Mentoring Resource Center website.


[1]The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory. (2021). Protecting Youth Mental Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

[2]The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory. (2023). Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

[3]Keller, T. E., Perry, M., & Spencer, R. (2020). Reducing Social Isolation Through Formal Youth Mentoring: Opportunities and Potential Pitfalls. Clinical Social Work Journal, 48(1), 35–45.

[4]Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (September 2019). Trauma-Informed Mentoring.

[5]Standford Medicine Children’s Health. (2023). Teens: Relationship Development.

[6]Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). (n.d.). Program Guide.

[7]DBT is Schools. (n.d.). DBT STEPS-A Curriculum: DBT Skills in Schools: Skills Training and Emotional Problem Solving for Adolescents.

[8]Fallavollita, W. L., & Lyons, M. D. (2023). Social acceptance from peers and youth mentoring: Implications for addressing loneliness and social isolation. Journal of Community Psychology, 51(5), 2065–2082.

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Westley Fallavollita is a doctoral student in Clinical and School Psychology in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Virginia. Before beginning his studies, he served for two years in the national service programs AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) and City Year Washington, DC and is a recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award. Working with his research mentor, Dr. Mike Lyons, he has published several articles on youth mentoring, including an examination of mentoring and social acceptance from peers and implications for addressing loneliness and social isolation.