Mentoring has long been regarded an effective method of reaching youth and this is especially true when it comes to youth of color. Mentoring is an effective tool used to help disadvantaged youth find a better path in society while helping them build self esteem and encouraging a better outlook for the future.
Many youth mentoring programs have long emphasized providing caring adult relationships to youth from different racial and ethnic groups. Sometimes this is done directly through mentoring services that are built around racial or cultural practices or that emphasize building positive racial identity in the face of societal oppression. In other cases, this happens indirectly as programs target a cross-section of youth from disadvantaged circumstances in a community that may have an overrepresentation of youth of color (or at least certain racial and ethnic groups).
Currently there are substantial numbers of mentoring services targeting specific racial or ethnic groups as well as an emphasis in many mentoring programs more generally on providing culturally competent and relevant services for youth of color.
Mentoring practitioners are also taking note that race and culture have an important role to play in the development of effective mentoring relationships. Considerable efforts are made in the recruitment of mentors with racial and ethnic backgrounds that are more reflective of the youth they serve.
The aim of mentoring is to be supportive to youth of color in a variety of ways, among them:
- Helping build a positive racial and ethnic identity
- Helping offset the impact of oppression or systematic racism
- Providing exposure to different cultures and institutions
But it is important to understand that these benefits from mentoring will be difficult to achieve if mentors lack the cultural competence and understanding to effectively work with youth of color or if the youth themselves hold high levels of cultural mistrust that inhibits their ability to bond with a mentor who may be from a different race or background.
Mentoring is an effective way of providing hope and support for youth of color who may otherwise be facing difficult life choices. Care must be taken in making sure that the mentoring is provided in the most effective way.