The Power of Peer Mentoring
- Tweet This You can’t be what you can’t see. Vulnerable youth need positive role models they can relate to.
- Tweet This Youth development programs that include peer mentoring can lead to reduced rates of teen pregnancy.
- Tweet This Hear @FYSBgov grantee Elycia Cook’s story on how her program helps teens mentor each other to prevent pregnancy.
Can an adolescent pregnancy prevention (APP) program focus on youth’s strengths, not their deficits? Absolutely, according to Elycia Cook, Executive Director of Friends First, a nonprofit organization based in Denver, Colorado. “We don't focus on the ‘what you should not be doing,’ we focus on the ‘what you should be doing,’” Cook explains.
We spoke with Cook about how her organization is tackling APP in her community as part of our Strength in Action podcast series. Students Teaching about Relationships and Success (STARS), a peer-to-peer mentoring program, receives FYSB funding. STARS staff mentor high school students, and together they mentor younger students in sixth through ninth grade. The program uses a group mentoring approach with a facilitator and one high school student working with one to three middle school students. The curriculum teaches self-awareness, future focus, and mentoring as a way of life.
The Benefits of Peer-to-Peer Mentoring
Peer mentoring programs like STARS help to fill an unmet need. According to Cook, in Colorado alone, there are 1,300 youth in need of mentors that traditional adult mentoring programs alone can’t manage. Qualified, available adults can be hard to find. That’s where peer-to-peer mentoring comes in.
Peer mentors, closer in age to mentees, can often connect better with students and are more available. The STARS program’s group setting gives youth a chance to connect with multiple people and hear more than one point of view. Cook says that many students feel a strong connection to the program and their peer group, often staying as long as 6 years. “A lot of our students go from mentee to mentor,” she says.
The STARS program also has a dual impact in helping not just the mentee, but the peer mentor as well. “When the students themselves are going through those lessons, it’s really becoming a part of who they are,” Cook explains.
Through the STARS program and other initiatives, Cook and her colleagues are increasing the positive ways in which people from vulnerable and underserved groups are represented. This, in turn, she believes helps youth to envision themselves with a successful future.
“You can’t be what you don’t see,” Cook explains. “We need to see people who look like us, to have vision to say, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’”
Tune in! Hear directly from Elycia Cook. Listen to the podcast episode, The Power of Peer Mentoring, and discover how adulthood preparation can enhance your APP program—through the eyes of someone who lives it every day and experiences its benefits.