Making friends and so much more.
When most people hear the word mentor they think of a traditional one-on-one relationship between an adult and a young person. Over the past few decades, the definition of mentoring has expanded to include virtual relationships, peer relationships and group relationships. Group mentoring brings a small group of young people (usually four or fewer) together with a mentor. While the mentoring relationship is the primary goal, many programs focus on a project or topic to give the group something to work on together. Programs like Michigan 4-H Tech Wizards provide a great example of how group mentoring can lead to a myriad of positive outcomes for youth and a memorable experience for volunteers.
4-H Tech Wizards matches up to four youth with an adult who works in a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) field or has a strong interest in these areas. Matches work together and select subject areas they are interested in exploring. Popular projects include robotics, rocketry, video production, general science and engineering. Youth are exposed to a variety of projects until a favorite emerges. Michigan State University Extension believes that youth should be actively engaged in setting the direction for the mentoring relationship and the group projects. Matches commit to sharing what they learn through community service projects. They may teach others what they have learned or use their new skills to help others. The mentoring relationships develop as the group solves problems together and process their experiences.
There are many benefits of group mentoring. This type of program can be particularly beneficial to young people who are struggling socially. Youth not only benefit from the relationship with the mentor, but from the working with and getting to know their peers. Participants also benefit from the hands on exposure to STEM projects and exposure to careers that use science based skills and knowledge. These programs have more structure than community based mentoring programs, which is attractive to many volunteers. If you are interested in learning more about 4-H Tech Wizards, visit MSU Extension.