Traditionally, when people think of mentoring they think of community-based programs in which a one-on-one match is made between an adult and a child.  Typically it is expected that the mentor meet with their mentee at least once per month for at least 12 months.  The activities they engage in together take place throughout the community and include anything from visiting a museum to taking a walk through a local park.  Research shows that this type a mentoring program is very effective.  Kids matched with mentors are less likely to begin using illegal drugs and alcohol, less likely to skip school, more likely to show increased self-esteem and more likely to perform better at school.  However, because of the relatively intense time commitment required from mentors, mentor recruitment and retention is challenging and often there are long lists of kids waiting to be matched with mentors.

In an effort to match more mentors with more kids, site-based mentoring programs have become increasingly popular.  In site-based mentoring, a one-on-one match is still made, but rather than activities taking place in the community, they take place at a specific location.  Site-based mentoring programs commonly take place at the mentee’s school or the mentor’s workplace.  Often, the structure of site-based programs, combined with the reduced time commitment (the school year as opposed to a full year), makes site-based programs less intimidating and more appealing to potential mentors than community-based programs.

A number of variations of community- and site-based mentoring programs have evolved in order to reach more kids and to increase the number of adults who volunteer as mentors.  Some of these mentoring programs are spouse or team mentoring, group mentoring, peer mentoring, and e-mentoring.  While mentoring programs can take many forms, they all share the same fundamental goal: to positively influence the development of a child.      

Nationally, as well as regionally, Big Brothers and Big Sisters remains a leader in youth mentoring.  In the St. Louis Metropolitan area, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri (BBBSEMO) andSouthwestern Illinois continue to provide evidence-based mentoring programs to hundreds of local children.  Furthermore, under theMissouri Mentoring Initiative (MMI) created by Governor Blunt in 2007, the State partnered with BBBSEMO to encourage state employees to volunteer as mentors.  This was designed as a pilot program to be reviewed after the 2007-2008 school year.  Due to the success of this initiative it was continued with increased goals for the number of employees volunteering as mentors, and thus, the number of children being served for the 2008-2009 school year.

Locally, Mentor St. Louis, who in November 2009 joined forces withHerbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club (HHBGC) , has been at the forefront of youth mentoring, running the largest school-based mentoring program in the region.  Hundreds of children in the St. Louis area are served by BBSEMO, Mentor St. Louis, and other mentor programs every year.  However, we also know that there are hundreds of more at-risk children who would greatly benefit from a mentor.  The impact a mentor can have on the positive development of a child is clear.  The St. Louis area needs to encourage and support the agencies and initiatives that foster these invaluable relationships.