When one thinks of a mentor, we are often drawn to images of a wiser, older (sometimes much older) adult passing on wisdom and skills to a younger protégé— the college professor encouraging a promising undergrad or a master craftsman teaching a lifetime of skills to an apprentice. And while most mentoring relationships involve an imbalance of experience, knowledge, or skill, there is a type of mentoring that approaches these relationships from a slightly different perspective: peer mentoring.
Peer mentoring is a model of mentoring in which an older adolescent is matched with one or more younger peers for the purpose of positive influence; and it is the heart of UrbanPromise Nashville’s StreetLeader Program. At UP Nashville, high school refugees are employed as mentors and tutors for the refugee children who will attend our after school programs (starting in January) and summer camps. These older students will be paired with a group of children and daily spend time with them tutoring, sharing stories from the Bible, and interacting with one another. We want to challenge these teens to use their influence to make positive changes in the lives of the younger students, as well as in their own lives and throughout their communities.
The relationship between the mentor and mentee has reciprocal benefits. Research shows that the benefits for mentees are found in a wide range of developmental, social, and academic outcomes including connectedness to school, higher self-esteem and self confidence, increased social support from peers and adults such as teachers, improved attendance, and graduation rates. Mentors experience improvements in leadership skills, stronger communication, and peer relationships, as well as a sense of identity and purpose.
Over the next few weeks we are interviewing and hiring high school refugee students as UP Nashville’s first StreetLeaders. These young men and women will shape the future of their own communities.