Mentoring at CHV

In the latest edition of our Under One Roof podcast, Mentorship Coordinator, Lisa Mendes, talks about the Mentorship Program at CHV, and how important it is to vulnerable youth.

The Mentorship Program is an important facet of the Rights of Passage (ROP) program — the housing program that prepares youth to become successful, when they transition to independence.

Lisa was hired in 2015 to create the Mentoring Program because “mentoring the vulnerable youth population that we serve at Covenant House, wasn’t something that was done very much at that time. And here I am, almost nine years later, still in the position, because I just love the role so much and I love the program so much!”

The Mentoring Program is an opportunity for young people to develop healthy and trusting one-to-one mentoring relationships with caring and responsible adult mentors from the community. The mentors’ purpose is to support youth in achieving some of their goals, ambitions, and life plans. And those goals can be anything that youth need at the time. The goals can range from career aspirations to recreational opportunities.

“Sometimes the youth just need help to learn basic things, like how to take a bus if they’re new to the country, or where to get groceries. Each match is a really unique relationship between the mentor and the mentee, and that’s what makes the job so interesting and exciting.”

Anyone can apply to work with the amazing youth that we serve. “We screen mentors exactly the same way we would screen a staff, because they’re going to be going out into the community with the youth.” Ideally, mentors would meet with their mentees twice a month, but Lisa understands that people get busy, so it’s a minimum once a month meeting. Both mentors and youth are supported by Lisa, so everyone is always connected.

Lisa loves that the matching of mentor to mentee is youth driven. “If a young person comes into ROP and they want a mentor, I basically sit them down and say, ‘What are you looking for? Describe your ideal mentor — age range, background, career, hobbies, etc.’ And I say, ‘What do you want to do with them?’ I get them to describe their ideal mentor and then I try to find that for them, to the best of my ability. After I match them, they have the first two meetings onsite and supported by me. If the youth comes back and says, ‘You know, this person isn’t a fit for me; I don’t feel comfortable with them.’ I will say, ‘No problem. We’ll, we’ll find you a different one.’”

Prospective mentors go through the volunteer training that all CHV volunteers go through, but in addition to that, mentors go through mentor-specific training. In a recent training session, Lisa had six new mentors, plus four returning mentors. The conversation between the two groups went exceptionally well. “It was like mentors mentoring new mentors. The dialogue happening between the new mentors and the experienced mentors was just so beautiful that I said to myself, ‘Okay, I need to incorporate this in all my training.’”

Lisa collaborates with many other organizations and has helped develop many online platforms to support mentors and youth. The result: incredible relationships between young people and mentors, both of whom grow from the experience.

“I had a vice president of a very big real estate company mentoring a youth that used to live on the streets. And you think, ‘What an emergence of two different worlds.’ Their paths may not have ever crossed. And the benefit that both of them got from that relationship was just beautiful.”

“Overall, the youth who provide feedback from surveys, show their satisfaction to be between 90% and 100% in the fields related to how their mentors have helped them and how amazing their mentors are.”

And with regards to the Mentorship Program, Lisa says, “This is where I belong. This is my baby. Anyone that’s met me here or knows me, knows that I’m very passionate about this and, I can’t not be, because I love seeing the results of these relationships!”

You can learn more about the Mentorship Program, hear more amazing stories of how mentors have helped youth, and learn more about how you can become a mentor, by listening to our latest Under One Roof podcast.