During a typical elementary school day, kids learn new spelling words or practice math equations. There’s time for fun during recess outside and for letting creativity soar through art and writing.
And, a school day also provides a perfect opportunity for effective, meaningful mentoring.
School-based mentoring programs, such as Kids Hope USA, are structured to invite trained mentors into the school, during the school day. For Kids Hope USA students, one mentor comes once a week for one hour—just for them! And that relationship continues for the entire school year.
But why take time out of an already packed learning time for a student to meet one-on-one with their mentor, as they may or not work on academic activities? While an after-school mentoring hour may seem like a better option for the student at first glance, school-based mentoring has significant benefits that allow these relationships to thrive.
7 Benefits of a School-Based Mentoring Program
What value does a “school-based” approach bring to a meaningful mentoring relationship? Here we share seven benefits that a program at school, during the school day, brings to mentorship.
1. School-Based Mentoring Programs Ensure a Safe Environment
Oftentimes, elementary students get into a rhythm during the school year. They know what time their bus comes or when their parent needs to take them to school. They know they’ll see their teacher and classmates every day. These rhythms provide a sense of dependable stability and routine that helps young children feel safe.
Inviting a mentoring program into this rhythm helps the students involved feel at ease and assured of their safety. In school-based mentoring, it’s as if the student is inviting the mentor into their space and rhythm—they have a sense of ownership in the relationship since it’s at their school. A school-based mentoring program like Kids Hope USA creates a safe environment where the student can feel comfortable as they spend time with their mentor.
2. Remove Schedule & Transportation Barriers
For after-school activities, students—and their parents or guardians—must coordinate drop off and pick up times and locations, all of which may change on any given day. This can cause anxiety in a student as they wonder if their parent or guardian will remember to pick them up or if some other transportation arrangement has been made.
A mentoring program during the school day eliminates the need for transportation and scheduling coordination within the child’s home life. Since there is not any time taken up after the school day, the pickup routine is the same for the student. This removes barriers for students who may not be able to participate in after-school programs due to scheduling or transportation obstacles. It also “levels the playing field” for students who may not have as many resources, allowing them to participate in extracurricular activities (K-12 Dive).
3. Low/No Cost for the School
Since the school facility is provided as a mentoring meeting space, school-based mentoring programs are also kept low-cost. In a Kids Hope USA program, there is no extra costs for the school. The church partner covers training and materials needed for the mentoring hour. This elimination of costs allows the school to offer more programs to their students without additional budget considerations.
The National Mentoring Resource Center states, “…mentoring programs in schools have shown to be a cost-efficient way of increasing the positive relationships students have in their lives, while also having the potential to boost factors that can lead to educational success.”
4. In School-Based Mentoring Programs, Students are Referred by the School
Teachers in elementary classrooms spend a lot of time with their students during the year. Therefore, teachers—as well as other school personnel—can help identify students who could benefit from a mentor. Students may be referred for a variety of reasons, including academic struggles, behavioral or focus challenges, situational stressors, a dip in self confidence levels, and more.
Another benefit is that the teacher can work collaboratively with the mentor to identify and address specific needs.
5. In School-Based Mentoring Programs, Mentors are not Tutors, But Relationship Builders
While some Kids Hope USA students and mentors complete academic work during their time together, the focus is on building a relationship. Mentors support the student as a whole person while placing special emphasis on social-emotional skills.
Whereas a tutor solely focuses on academics, a Kids Hope USA mentor prioritizes the relationship they build with their student. A school-based mentoring program allows for academic work to take place but also invites time for playing games, doing crafts, and being together.
6. School-Based Mentoring Programs Can Boost Attendance
For students who may struggle with attendance, mentoring during the school day may encourage them to show up at school, especially on their mentoring day.
One Kids Hope USA teacher shared, “For many kids, the day of the week they most want to be at school is the day their mentor comes.”
Students know that on their day for mentoring, they’ll get to play games, chat, and spend time with their mentor. And many children don’t want to miss out on that opportunity!
7. Offer Motivation for Children in School
Many students eagerly wait for time with their mentor, and it motivates them to do well! A Kids Hope USA teacher said, “My student is very motivated to spend time with his mentor. Work completion improves when he knows his mentor is coming.”
Another Kids Hope USA teacher said, “When my student’s mentor would show up, his eyes would light up, and I could see an immediate change in his behavior and demeanor.”
When a student knows their mentor is coming to see them, they may be more willing to get their work done, listen well, and be ready for their time together.
Emphasizing the School in School-Based Mentoring Programs
In a proven mentoring program like Kids Hope USA, the school plays an essential role in serving the community’s kids. The school provides opportunities for students to enjoy and look forward to their time with their mentor, without concerns about transportation or scheduling. While after-school community programs can work and support kids, a school-based approach empowers kids to thrive during the school day. This model breaks down barriers and makes the program accessible to all students attending the school.
Kids Hope USA is a school-based mentoring program that invites volunteer mentors from a partner church to serve students in their local school. To learn more about the impact and opportunities of this one-to-one mentoring program, visit our program page.