Boston (September, 2021) MentorHub NU is being rolled out to all NU students. Navigating university life can be challenging and when challenges arise students need personalized just-in-time and proactive support that is efficient, effective, and trusted. Based on the science of “supportive accountability,” MentorHub NU streamlines the support process and connects you with the support you need when you need it.
McQuillin, Hagler, Werntz, & Rhodes (2021). Paraprofessional Youth Mentoring: A Framework for Integrating Youth Mentoring with Helping Institutions and Professions. American Journal of Community Psychology.
- We propose a framework for delegating some mental health service tasks to paraprofessional mentors.
- Appropriately scaled, paraprofessionals can reduce the burden of youth’s mental health difficulties.
- With training, a subset of mentors could increase engagement in and deliver mental health services.
- Training, supervision, and documentation of services will be critical to scale.
- Paraprofessional youth mentorship requires research to establish efficacy.
Abstract The demand for child mental health services, including those provided by psychologists, counselors, and social workers, exceeds the supply. This trend is expected to continue or worsen unless there are substantial structural changes in how mental health services are provided. We propose a framework for paraprofessional youth mentors, defined as a subgroup of professionally supervised, non- expert volunteer or paid mentors to whom aspects of professional helping tasks are delegated. Our proposal is aligned with historical and modern solutions to scaling mental health services, and this framework could simultaneously increase the number of youth receiving evidence-based mental health services and reduce the burden on existing systems of care. The framework defines three plausible tasks for paraprofessional mentors: (1) reducing barriers to mental health service, (2) increasing engagement in services, and (3) providing direct services. The safety and effectiveness of these task-shifting efforts will hinge on competency-based training and evaluation, supervision by professionals, and documentation of services rendered, all of which the field of youth mentoring currently lacks. We describe several requisite scientific, institutional, and regulatory advances that will be necessary to realize this
✉ Jean E. Rhodes firstname.lastname@example.org
- 1 Department of Psychology, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA
- 2 Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA, USA
variant of youth mentoring for a subgroup of youth who are presenting for assistance with mental health problems.
Harvard Gazette: When COVID robbed children of their friendships, learning suffered
After the pandemic closed schools last year, hospitals saw a surge in mental health-related emergency visits among children 18 and under. The statistics have been grim enough that a large cohort of the nation’s top pediatricians recently declared a “national emergency” in child and adolescent mental health.
COVID disrupted connections for everyone, but especially children. Cut off from social networks — sometimes even the internet — young people had few opportunities to forge relationships outside the home, said Jenlei Li, the host of a Harvard Graduate School of Education webinar called “The Healing Power of Friendships and Relationships.” Stuck at home, they lost chances to connect with peers, teachers, coaches, and guidance counselors.
With schools back to a semblance of normal, Traci Baxley and Jean Rhodes joined Li, the Saul Zaentz Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Education and co-chair of the Human Development and Education Program, to discuss how teachers and parents can encourage kids to rebuild these critical relationships, which are integral to both learning and mental health.
“Young people are suffering,” said Rhodes, a professor of psychology and director of the Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. In her research, Rhodes has found that strong relationships between children and caring adults can have positive effects for decades, extending through middle age. Many of those relationships are built at school.
But schools alone cannot solve mental health issues, she said. Most can only afford to employ one counselor to serve hundreds of children. “It’s a systemic problem,” she said. Rhodes advocates for “stocking the pond with caring adults,” including volunteer mentors and paraprofessionals, and teaching kids to fish. “Learning occurs in relationships,” she said.
Baxley, an associate professor at Florida Atlantic University and author of “Social Justice Parenting: How to Raise Compassionate, Anti-Racist, Justice-Minded Kids in an Unjust World,” witnessed firsthand how the pandemic isolation affected learning. Her five children include a teenage son with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, who struggled with virtual education.
“Now that he’s back in school,” she said, “he’s a different kid.”
Rhodes and Baxley stressed the educational component of their message — that learning happens through relationships with teachers. And teachers, said Baxley, have the power to create community — or not. Children must feel heard and seen; teachers can build democratic classrooms, talk through stressors, and develop plans to face them. Teaching children how to handle stress, talk about emotions, and develop relationships shouldn’t be an extra, Baxley said; it should be embedded in classroom culture.
Outside school, sports teams, after-school programs, and religious institutions provide critical opportunities for kids to learn social-emotional skills and build strong connections, said Rhodes.
“We need the village,” said Baxley, punctuating her argument by noting her work in Florida’s Palm Beach County schools: “Right now, they have over 800 students that are unaccounted for since the pandemic. They shouldn’t be lost, wherever they are.”
Community organizations can help keep children safe and engaged, especially now, when adults are also struggling with increased mental health issues. The pandemic, Baxley said, is a chance to “care more and to reset how we treat people around us, including other adults.”
At home, parents can model coping skills, said Baxley, like going for a walk or talking through difficult emotions. They should also provide space for children to articulate their feelings. “A lot of the time as parents, we need to stop knowing and start listening,” she said.
Baxley taught her son with ADHD to understand his needs — academic, dietary, and physical — as well as what he can control and whom he can ask for help. “You want your kids to be independent, but part of that independence is asking for the things you need.”
Marginalized children, Rhodes added, are often the least able and least likely to speak up for themselves. Their schools tend to have fewer adult mentors and counselors to serve each child. Helping these students make connections is an urgent matter.
“The more relationships we can put in the path of children, the better,” said Rhodes.
“Amen to that,” said Baxley
Last spring, I had the chance to speak with Jean Rhodes, a leading researcher in the world of mentoring, and author of the book Older and Wiser: New Ideas for Youth Mentoring in the 21st Century. For schools managing yet another year of pandemic upheavals, Rhodes’ findings offer a roadmap for broader, evidence-based thinking about relationship strategies that keep students connected and supported.
Deploying these approaches in schools, she argues, can also complement teacher-student relationships that are all too often taxed by punishing adult-to-student ratios. Rhodes’ notion of “supportive accountability” (described below) could be especially powerful as schools navigate the social and academic costs that everything from teacher shortages to interrupted schooling are exacting on students this year.
Here’s a few highlights from our conversation, which you can listen to below:
- Friendship is necessary, but not sufficient:. Older and Wiser is something of a referendum on the mentoring movement. Rhodes highlights how data on efficacy of mentoring programs is uneven at best. “Looking at the past 20 years of youth mentoring, we’re not really improving the effectiveness overall of traditional youth mentoring programs where the goal is to form a bond as a means to an end and the end being improvement in youth development. That is not necessarily addressing the needs and challenges of today’s youth,” Rhodes said.For her, mentoring needs to get more specific in terms of both goals and tactics in order to put relationships to work. “A relationship, a friendship, is necessary, but not sufficient. What makes it more effective is when you not only build a friendship, but that you work on something tailored to the needs and challenges of the individual young person with whom you’re working,” she explained.The book explores alternatives to the friendship model of mentoring and highlights how mentoring programs and schools alike could take a more targeted approach to pairing friendly relationships with evidence-based interventions. It also explores the role that technology could play in that more targeted approach.
- Technology can scale supportive accountability: In detailing a new approach, Rhodes offers a fresh take on what has long been part of the premise of blended learning in the academic realm: the immense potential pairing high-quality online curriculum and interventions with caring adults who may not be experts in academic or social emotional learning, but who can offer what Rhodes dubs “supportive accountability.”“I came to the conclusion that mentoring is the most effective when the mentor can deliver or support evidence-based care. Then I hit up against the problem that big programs or even schools can’t possibly have evidence-based tools for every single thing that comes their way and continuously maintain those manuals of tools,” Rhodes said. But luckily, more technology tools have emerged in recent years that integrate evidence-based approaches to academic and social support. Pairing those tools with volunteer mentors, Rhodes argues, kills two birds with one stone: “One is the problem that there are all of these great tools, but really nobody to support them, because parents and teachers are overtaxed. And two, there are all of these volunteers who have the best intentions and time. Put the volunteer who has time and the evidence-based tool together and you create a context for the young person to be supported as they learn new skills,” she explained.Rhodes is careful to point out that through that arrangement mentors, rather than technology tools alone, play a critical role: they can get to know young people well enough to be attuned to when and how to support them in ways that tech tools can’t. She’s pushing more programs and schools to embrace the notion of mentors providing “supportive accountability”: “That’s the idea that there’s ways to support a young person who is trying to improve that are more effective than others,” Rhodes said. “It’s not just a linear relationship where the more you nudge them, the more they’re going to respond. You do it right. You figure out what it is that’s blocking them and you apply the right pressure at the right time.”
- Curriculum to arm students with skill and mindsets to foster networks: One of the other reasons I was excited to interview Rhodes was that she and her colleagues have developed one of the few evidence-based networking curricula for low-income, first-generation college students to help them build and maintain support networks on campus. The curriculum and approach, called Connected Futures, draws on the concept of “youth- initiated mentoring”—–that is, the skills, mindsets, and confidence young people need in order to recruit a network of mentors into their lives. It’s a critical piece of the puzzle in more holistic and equitable approaches to building students’ social capital. It also puts them in the driver’s seat, rather than “networking” amounting to something that is done to, rather than with, students.Thus far, Rhodes’ team has seen promising results among students exposed to the curriculum: “We find that if young people learn how to value, recruit, and maintain caring adult connections, a year later, the ones that were randomly assigned to learn this had a higher grade point average, were more likely to be recruiting adults, were less avoidant to seeking things,” Rhodes said.Rhodes and I went on to discuss myriad other challenges and opportunities in the world of mentoring: troubling gaps in students’ access to natural mentors, the impressive evidence emerging around peer-to-peer mentoring, and the strategies that schools and mentoring programs alike should consider for the year ahead. Take a listen!
October 20, 2021
The pandemic has caused many of us to recognize the power of relationships — for ourselves, and for our children. Have your children’s friendships changed — or suffered? Are your students finding it hard to re-ignite their stalled connections? How can schools help to foster friendship — and prioritize strong relationships and a sense of belonging for every student? And what are the lessons we can take with us into our own adult lives?
We have found in the pilot that Big Brothers and Big Sisters and Little Brothers and Little Sisters who who connecting through MentorHub are staying more connected to each other. It’s actually providing some depth to the relationship. Young people are getting more comfortable communicating through texting and MentorHub has allowed this very safe space for our Littles to open up about how they’re feeling and what they are experiencing. It gives just the right amount of distance, which really adds richness to the relationship with their mentor and helps their mentor and our staff better support the young person….MentorHub app helped big time…” (Listen to the Podcast)
How are you? Nashville nonprofit to test a new app to let kids answer more honestly
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee is launching MentorHub, which leaders hope will allow “bigs” and “littles” to more easily have conversations that can be tough
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Mass wanted to continue adapting and serving. Earlier this year they partnered with Dr. Jean Rhodes, Director of the Center for Evidence-Based Mentoring at the University of Massachusetts Boston, to work on the MentorHub. MentorHub consists of an app and integrated web dashboard that helps mentors support and track students’ use of the world’s best and scientifically-proven educational and mental health programs. With accountability and a shared dashboard with a mentor, students can really identify and work on areas that are challenges.
Getting kids to close apps like TikTok and instead sign into educational and wellness ones is easier said than done. But Jean Rhodes, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston, is on a mission to change that.
MentorHub is an app helping students stay connected to remote learning. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts teamed up with clinical psychologists to design technology that’s making the connection between mentors and mentees more personal. Jean Rhodes, professor of psychology at UMass Boston, and Omari Jahi Aarons, a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts Mentor 2.0 Program, discuss the importance of the app.
MENTOR (the National Mentoring Partnership) promotes mentoring and offers resources like this, for “youth in the wake of trauma,” and currently a “Mentoring Amplifies” campaign. This Boston-based partnership includes an affiliation with UMass-Boston Professor Jean Rhodes, the Center for Evidence-based Mentoring, and the Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring. Professor Rhodes is the author of Older and Wiser: New Ideas for Youth Mentoring in the 21st Century and Stand by Me: The Risks and Rewards of Mentoring Today’s Youth.
Read more at Meredith.edu
…”One of the organization’s programs, called REACH, supports homeless families. Pardue plans to start a research-based mentorship program for REACH that she will introduce to Meredith in the spring. “Partnering with a Boston-based non-profit called Mentorhub, the program is skill-focused and utilizes apps such as Khan Academy, Intellicare, SuperBetter, and Headspace,” she said. “The REACH homeless children and youth will be matched with a graduate or undergraduate student from a number of the colleges and universities in the area, including Meredith.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts, a Boston-based nonprofit that provides adult mentors to help youth reach their full potential, noting that “mentoring is more important than ever” during the coronavirus pandemic, recently turned to technology to better support the mentor-mentee relationships they foster.