What does mentoring look like in OST?


Mentoring is a structured and trusting relationship that brings together young people with caring individuals who offer guidance, support, and encouragement aimed at developing competence and character of the mentee. Structures of mentoring programs vary, but are commonly linked by the formation of these relationships characterized by trust, guidance, and respect.

Different models of mentoring programs may be described by location of match meetings and structure of the relationship



Program models may also offer a combination of these strategies. For example, the Make Space program at the Visual Arts Center in Richmond pairs mentors and mentees one-to-one but offers small group activities and discussion. The Gear Up program at Heritage High School in Lynchburg meets during the school year, but offers the option and structure for matches to communicate through e-mentoring for the summer. Program structure can vary to best meet the needs of students.

Mentoring relationships may form in many types of OST programs, not only those defined as formal mentoring programs. When adults volunteer in OST programs as tutors, classroom assistants, or sports coaches, they are often positioned to form natural, or informal, mentoring relationships. Just like formal mentoring programs, informal mentoring programs like tutoring or coaching may benefit from volunteer training on building developmental relationships and similar resources to promote the quality of relationships that naturally occur.

Mentoring Support in Virginia

MENTOR Virginia hosts regional convening meetings of youth mentoring programs, offered quarterly to give staff opportunities to network, share best practices, trends in the field, and access regional content trainings on relevant topics to the region. Contact MENTOR Virginia for registration information.

    • Richmond Tri-cities • Petersburg
    • Hampton Roads • Alexandria
    • Charlottesville

Why is quality important in mentoring?


In the mentoring field, quality indicators have been compiled by MENTOR  in a national curriculum known as the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring. The EEPM outlines research-based best practices that are associated with impactful, sustainable mentoring relationships. The importance of these quality practices is echoed at the state level. According to 2016 research conducted by MENTOR Virginia, programs that reported using the EEPM regularly in their work also reported matches lasting 8 months longer than programs that had not heard of these quality standards. Incorporating these best practices help programs maximize outcomes for the young people they serve.

The Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring outlines six evidence-based categories (“Standards”) of quality practices that are intended to be applicable across almost every type of youth mentoring program. Each Standard includes Benchmarks to ensure the safety and effectiveness of mentoring relationships, as well as Enhancements that may be promising, innovative and useful for programs. MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership offers training modules to orient programs in these quality standards. 


For additional information and resources for developing your mentoring program, contact MENTOR Virginia, the  state-wide anchor organization that promotes effective youth mentoring by increasing the capacity and sustainability of mentoring programs through training, consulting, quality assurance, and capacity-building services.