A Conceptual Problem with Mentoring

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A critical perspective around mentoring as a concept and as a practice is lacking.

The mindset that only young people, and really that only young people of color, require mentoring automatically gives the concept a deficit based frame and ultimately “colors” the way in which researchers study it and practitioners implement it. In addition, the idea that mentoring primarily benefits the mentee without understanding that the nature of the mentoring relationship is mutually beneficial, exacerbates the deficit based frame.

Furthermore, the number of mentoring initiatives and the funding for those initiatives remain concentrated in urban areas, ignoring an ongoing shift of people of color from urban to suburban and rural areas. A regrettable lack of research on the needs of suburban youth of color makes most of us assume that people of color who have left urban areas to settle in suburban areas have escaped the issues attached to urban living and therefore don’t require services like mentoring. A thorough and critical examination of youth of color outside of the stereotypical poor and urban framework is required to expand our understanding of youth of color, but is also required in order for us to understand how to mentor youth of color in suburban settings and how to effectively establish program structures that help these youth to become critical thinkers, to access higher education, and to become positively contributing citizens.

Finally, social capital centered mentoring for youth of color is lacking;  mentoring programs that establish capital focused mentoring relationships where there is a concerted effort to help young people access critical resources and networks meant to provide them with opportunities to better themselves and their futures.

As both a scholar and a practitioner, I am interested in addressing these gaps through my research, policy and programming efforts. Through this blog I will share my work and the work of other mentoring and education experts that expand the existing research with a keen and critical eye.

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