Afterschool Focus: Mentoring in Afterschool

High-quality afterschool mentoring programs can have a positive influence in a student’s life. Benefits for the mentees include

  • improved self esteem;
  • stronger relationships with parents and peers;
  • greater school connectedness;
  • improved academic performance; and
  • reductions in substance abuse, violence, and other high-risk behaviors.1

Creating an effective afterschool mentoring program involves more than just pairing students with positive role models. The Hamilton Fish Institute on School and Community Violence and the National Mentoring Center at Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory worked together to create an overview of the characteristics of successful youth mentoring programs. The guidelines are grouped into three sections: preparing to start a new program, designing mentoring services, and sustaining the program.

Preparing a New Program. When creating a mentoring program, leaders will want to engage in planning activities such as conducting a community needs assessment to identify a focus for the program; partnering with existing organizations that already provide mentoring services; and developing a mission statement, vision, and logic model.

A possible focus of an afterschool mentoring program might be helping students transition from one academic stage to another-from middle to high school or from high school to college or the workforce. Another important topic is helping youth with social-emotional competencies and the challenges of high-risk behavior.2 Other programs help students develop skills and self-efficacy in a specific field. For example, Girlstart, a nonprofit organization that helps girls develop the skills for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers, provides mentoring programs to promote early engagement, persistence, and academic success in this area.

Designing Mentoring Services. Once a program has selected a focus and conducted initial preparations, the Hamilton Fish Institute and the National Mentoring Center recommend that organizations concentrate on creating the structure of day-to-day mentoring activities. These steps will include volunteer recruitment and training; mentor screening; and matching mentors and mentees. Staff will also need to conduct background checks on all potential mentors.

Common matching criteria for mentors and mentees include

  • same gender;
  • similar racial, ethnic, cultural, or language background;
  • shared interests;
  • mentor or mentees' personality and temperament;
  • special needs of mentee; and
  • similarity between the mentor’s career and mentee’s career interests.3

Some studies have shown that it takes 6 months to 1 year for a mentoring program to show results; therefore, it is recommended that the mentor and mentee have consistent, regular meetings, at least 4 hours per month, so they can develop an authentic, close emotional bond. Mentoring activities should focus on the developmental needs of the mentee, and the mentoring relationship should last for 1 year or longer.4 Afterschool staff should plan to monitor matches and offer support and ongoing training. Providing recognition for volunteers, match closure, and program evaluation are also important components of a mentoring program.

Sustaining a Program. Because an effective mentoring relationship depends on long-term, ongoing engagement between the mentor and mentee, afterschool leaders are encouraged to take early steps to sustain their mentoring programs. Sustainability activities can include

  • develop a written policy and procedure manual,
  • develop a qualified and stable staff,  
  • use training and technical assistance services,
  • increase community awareness of the program,
  • use evaluation data for continuous improvement, and
  • collaborate with other local youth-serving organizations.

To learn more about starting, improving, or sustaining a mentoring program, we encourage you to explore the full list of guidelines and related tools provided by the Hamilton Fish Institute and the National Mentoring Center.


Rhodes & DuBois, 2006.

Spencer, 2006.

Garringer & MacRae, 2006.

Rhodes & DuBois, 2006; Afterschool Alliance, 2009.


Afterschool Alliance. (2009, September). Afterschool: A place for older youth to mentor and be mentored. Issue Brief, No. 40. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from

Garringer, M., & MacRae, P. (2007). Foundations of successful youth mentoring: Effective strategies for providing quality youth mentoring in schools and communities. Portland, OR: National Mentoring Center. Retrieved from 

Rhodes, J. E., & DuBois, D. L. (2006). Understanding and facilitating the youth mentoring movement. Social Policy Report, 20(3), 3-19. Retrieved from 

Spencer, R. (2006). Understanding the mentoring process between adolescents and adults. Youth Society, 37, 287-315.