COVID-19 Resources for Mentoring Programs

A Note to Our Program Partners

As all of you work to respond to the constantly-evolving developments of school closures and program disruptions caused by COVID-19, MENTOR Virginia recognizes that this is an extremely difficult time. While the recommendation for social distancing and the limiting of in-person contact is critical for public health, it also poses real challenges to mentoring programs that seek to foster and nurture long-term mentoring relationships for our young people. While we recommend that all mentoring programs across Virginia suspend in-person mentoring, we recognize that our young people–perhaps now more than ever–need the connection with their mentor(s) to help them survive and thrive in this isolating and anxiety-inducing time.

This page contains a collection of resources that may be helpful for program staff, stakeholders, mentors, and families as COVID-19 disrupts standard program operations. Our team will update this page as new resources become available. Thanks for your continued dedication to Virginia’s young people.

Sincerely,

The MENTOR Virginia Team

Upcoming Opportunities for Virginia's Mentoring Programs

MENTOR Virginia staff are not taking any in-person meetings or conducting any in-person trainings at this time. The MENTOR Virginia team continues to be available virtually to assist with any programmatic needs: we can be reached by phone at 804-828-1536 or by email at sarah@mentorva.org.

MENTOR Virginia has a few upcoming or ongoing opportunities for mentoring programs:

Virtual Townhalls for Mentoring Programs: To help foster collaboration and learning among Virginia’s many mentoring programs, MENTOR Virginia is hosting townhalls to discuss shared challenges and solutions. Here is the recording of our most recent townhall on Supporting Young People & Families Through Trauma & COVID-19, featuring John Richardson-Lauve of ChildSavers.

Virtual New Mentor Training: We are hosting two upcoming virtual New Mentor Trainings that are open to the public:

  • Tuesday, July 21st from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm | Register here for this virtual training
  • Tuesday, August 18th from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm | Register here for this virtual training

Open Office Hours Initiative: Our virtual open office hours are an opportunity for program staff from all types of programs, at any level of expertise, to dedicate work time towards specific projects that address current program needs. Office hours cannot take the place of more dedicated time and support through a technical assistance (TA) project, but it can be a time to decide whether a TA project is right for you or to get support and resources to make some progress on your important projects. There is no cost to you; just request an appointment and MENTOR Virginia will contact you to schedule and confirm.

Program ConsultationCOVID-19 is highlighting some of the challenges that mentoring programs are facing, and technical assistance (TA), a no-cost program consultation service, is a great resource to help programs respond to this crisis in ways that lead to stronger, longer-lasting, and higher-quality mentoring relationships for more of Virginia’s young people. Partners who apply for TA can access up to 50 hours of virtual, individualized consultation. TA can help with COVID-19 response planning by helping your program:

  • Find and implement a high-quality alternative to in-person mentoring
  • Plan for match closure
  • Develop a virtual training for mentors
  • Develop a volunteer recruitment or retention plan
  • Develop a fundraising plan for post-coronavirus fundraising climate
  • Implement trauma-informed strategies for supporting young people and families

Programs that submit an application for TA should forward the confirmation email they receive to Sarah at sarah@mentorva.org in order to begin TA immediately. Otherwise, it could take 2-4 weeks for consultation to begin.

Resources for Supporting Young People & Families Through COVID-19

Information on Trauma & Resilience

Supporting Young People Through Trauma & COVID-19

Early Childhood:

All Ages:

Teens & Young Adults:

Mindfulness & Breathing Activities for Kids

Resources to Help Families & Caregivers Cope with the Pandemic

Self-Care Resources for Parents, Caregivers, & Youth-Serving Professionals

Talking with Children About the Pandemic

Supporting Young People While Standing Up Against Racism

The Search Institute has released a tipsheet on how to respond to fear and scapegoating with young people during the Coronavirus, rooted in the Developmental Relationships Framework . This tipsheet highlights how mentors and other nurturing adults in a child’s life can continue to express care, challenge growth, provide support, share power, and expand possibilities throughout the health crisis.

Facilitating Continued Mentoring Connections

As COVID-19 forces disruption to most mentoring programs in Virginia, here are some recommendations for helping matches maintain consistent contact without in-person meetings.

School/Site-Based Programs
  • Set up a pen-pal system for mentors/mentees by having mentors and, if possible, mentees email or mail messages to the program coordinator, who can forward them to the mentor/mentee.
  • Facilitate a 3-way conference call between each match pair to include the mentor, mentee, and a member of program staff.
  • Use the breakout room feature on Zoom to facilitate monitored interactions with matches
Community-Based Programs
  • Matches can maintain consistent contact via: Phone or text, Messaging apps (Whatsapp, Snapchat, etc.), Social media, Video chats, Mailed or emailed letters

Find more guidance around implementing E-Mentoring below under the “E-Mentoring” tab.

As some programs are able to facilitate entirely virtual mentoring relationships, here are over 20 activity ideas that matches can do virtually.

 

Building Developmental Relationships During the COVID-19 Crisis

 

The Search Institute has come out with a checklist of things that mentors, teachers, and youth program staff can do to help build developmental relationships during the COVID-19 crisis. Below are a few tips that we wanted to highlight:
  • Send a text, email, video, or note to a young person that says they matter to you personally and you are thinking about them during this crisis.
  • Ask young people to set one personal goal for something they want to achieve during the time away from your school or program, and then periodically check in on their progress.
  • Send notes to parenting adults to suggest ways they can help young people stay connected to the work of your class or program while they are at home.
  • Send young people something to watch or read that will be new to them.

E-Mentoring

E-Mentoring Considerations & Best Practices for Mentoring Programs

Many mentoring programs across Virginia are seeking alternatives to in-person meetings between mentors and mentees to facilitate continued mentoring connections during this time of crisis. E-Mentoring is a great option, but it has to be implemented well in order to keep young people safe and to ensure effective virtual relationship-building. Below are some resources to help mentoring programs get started.

MENTOR Virginia has also created a document that is a one-stop shop for links to valuable E-Mentoring resources. Resources covered include:

  • Best Practices for E-Mentoring
  • Managing Risks Associated with E-Mentoring
  • Effectively Engaging with Young People Virtually
  • Accessing Technology During COVID-19
MENTOR Virginia’s 2-Part E-Mentoring Training Series

 

Part I: Does E-Mentoring Make Sense for Your Program?

 

This training was designed for in-person mentoring programs that are considering pivoting to E-Mentoring in response to COVID-19. Topics covered include an overview of several technology platforms for E-Mentoring, risk management for E-Mentoring (including information about insurance, privacy laws, parental consent, and policies & procedures), and best practices for closing current matches if E-Mentoring is not a good fit for your program.

  • Recording of and PowerPoint slides for Part I: Does E-Mentoring Make Sense for Your Program?

Part II: Best Practices for E-Mentoring 

This training dives into the best practices for E-Mentoring in six key areas: recruitment, screening, training, matching & initiating, monitoring & support, and closure. Differences in best practices for E-Mentoring as compared to in-person mentoring are emphasized throughout.

Platforms for E-Mentoring
Below are the four platforms that we are seeing mentoring programs use successfully to facilitate E-Mentoring across Virginia. Follow each link to learn more.

 

MENTOR National’s Virtual Mentoring Portal

The Virtual Mentoring Portal is dedicated to MENTOR National’s new initiative in response to COVID-19, which aims to provide mentoring programs with access to safe, monitored platforms for E-Mentoring. Access the Virtual Mentoring Portal here, and find information about the iCouldBe and CricketTogether virtual mentoring platforms and also find answers to many frequently asked questions about MENTOR National’s current and future efforts to support a national E-Mentoring movement.

Accessing Technology During COVID-19

  • FCC Agreement: Providers will waive late fees, provide open hot-spots and will not disconnect service for lack of payment.
  • Comcast COVID-19 Response: Offering free WiFi for two months to K-12 and higher education students. All Xfinity hot-spots are free to the public during this time.
  • AT&T COVID-19 Response: Offering open hot-spots, unlimited data to existing customers, and $10/month plans to low-income families.
  • Verizon COVID-19 Response: Offering free international calling to most countries. Customers should call to receive temporary plan upgrades, including data options. 
  • Sprint COVID-19 Response: Offering unlimited data to existing customers and allowing all handsets to enable hot-spots for 60 days at no extra charge.
  • T-Mobile COVID-19 Response: Offering unlimited data to existing customers, and, coming soon, will allow all handsets to enable hot-spots for 60 days at no extra charge.
  • Charter Free Internet offer for 2 months: Offering free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription and at any service level up to 100 Mbps. To enroll call 1-844-488-8395. Installation fees will be waived for new student households.

Tips for Retaining Volunteers During COVID-19

A common challenge facing many mentoring programs during the COVID-19 crisis is how to retain volunteer mentors who have experienced disruptions in their mentoring relationships or are completely unable to continue mentoring as a result of school/program closures. Below are some tips that programs can use to retain their volunteers throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

Keep Open Lines of Communications

The quickest way to lose volunteers is to stop communicating with them, which is easy to do in a crisis where there are a million other challenges that require your immediate attention. Try to reach out to mentors once every two weeks, or any time there’s a major organizational update to help them feel connected to the program. Keep them in the loop!

If Possible, Provide Alternatives to In-Person Mentoring Connections

Even if there is not a way for your mentoring program to offer E-Mentoring interactions that allow your mentors to continue their mentoring relationships, consider other ways that mentors can maintain a relationship from a distance. Pen-pal campaigns are a great way to keep mentors engaged and still offer some support to mentees. If mentors don’t know what to write about, set up weekly themes or provide a list of topic suggestions.

Engage Your Volunteers In Alternative Ways

If there is no way at all to continue mentoring relationships within your program, consider alternative ways that you can engage and retain your current volunteers. Maybe they can create video messages to their mentees that your program posts on social media, or can assist in virtual fundraising or volunteer recruitment campaigns. Another idea is to offer a monthly virtual training opportunity for volunteers, or host virtual support groups where mentors can come together to support each other through the crisis. For a real-life example, check out this virtual volunteer opportunity that Junior Achievement created in response to COVID-19. Get creative!

If Nothing Else, Let Your Volunteers Know When You’ll Reach Out Again

If there isn’t any way for your program to utilize your current volunteers during the COVID-19 crisis, let them know that through email or phone. Though it is hard to plan what summer or fall programming might look like at this time, let them know when you will reach out next with an update on when they can get involved again, and follow through. Be sure to thank them for the time they were able to give to your program this year.

More Resources

Saying Goodbye: Match Closure & COVID-19

Depending on how long the COVID-19 health crisis stretches on, some mentoring programs may face the possibility of being unable to resume normal operations before current match relationships must close due to the end of school or the program cycle. No matter what, we recommend that whenever possible, mentoring programs formally close matches with mentors and mentees. All matches need the opportunity to say goodbye.

Here are our recommendations for facilitating virtual match closure:

Create a Virtual Closure Plan & Communicate It
Programs have options for facilitating virtual closure, two of which include: 1) Having mentors and mentees, if possible, write closure letters to their mentor/mentee and send them to the program coordinator to distribute 2) Facilitating closure conference calls with each match and parent/guardian, if relevant, that creates space for reflection. Once programs have a plan for how they will conduct virtual match closure, they should inform mentors, mentees, and parent/guardians of what to expect.

 

Communicate Important Policies
No matter how programs decide to facilitate match closure, programs should clearly communicate policies around future contact between mentors and mentees once the program has ended. It is helpful, even if these policies are communicated to mentors, mentees, and parent/guardians verbally, to also send a written letter stating that matches have closed and outlining what, if any, continued contact between matches is permitted.

 

Coach Mentors on How to Say Goodbye Before They Say It
Whether mentors in your program have the opportunity to say goodbye to their mentees through written letter, phone call, or video-chat, it is helpful to coach mentors on what to expect and what they are encouraged to say as part of the closure process. Prepare mentors to talk to their mentee about future contact and the possibility (when relevant) of participating in the mentoring program again without making promises they can’t keep. A great way to do this is through a 30-minute virtual training for mentors on closure.

 

Closure Resources:

Fundraising Resources for Mentoring Programs

Not only has COVID-19 disrupted mentoring relationships and program operations, it has also drastically changed the fundraising environment for mentoring programs. Below are some resources to help programs re-think their fundraising strategies.

The CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, which was signed into law in late March, includes a provision allowing nonprofits who were incorporated by March 1, 2020 and have 500 or fewer employees to apply for an Emergency Small Business Loan up to $10 million. Loans are forgivable if nonprofits keep all staff on the payroll between March 1 and June 30, 2020, which turns the loan into a general operating grant that can be used to meet payroll, health insurance, facilities, and debt service costs. Find more information below:

 

Coronavirus Resources from MENTOR National

MENTOR National’s Coronavirus Resource Page

Mentoring programs seeking additional resources can visit MENTOR National’s new Coronavirus Tips & Resources for Mentoring website page, which will be updated with new resources as they become available. Find tips on E-Mentoring, guidance for mentors, and information on advocacy and legislation related to COVID-19.

MENTOR National’s Virtual Mentoring Portal

The Virtual Mentoring Portal is dedicated to MENTOR National’s new initiative in response to COVID-19, which aims to provide mentoring programs with access to safe, monitored platforms for E-Mentoring. Access the Virtual Mentoring Portal here, and find information about the iCouldBe virtual mentoring platform and also find answers to many frequently asked questions about MENTOR National’s current and future efforts to support a national E-Mentoring movement.

Let MENTOR National Know: How is Your Program Responding to COVID-19?

MENTOR National is currently collecting feedback from mentoring programs across the country about their challenges related to the coronavirus with the goal of better understanding current needs. MENTOR National plans to use this information to provide virtual resources that are responsive to real-life program needs. Take the survey to let MENTOR National know what resources you want to see, and to share any creative solutions you’re program has implemented in response to COVID-19 that might be helpful to other mentoring programs.

Virginia-Specific Resources for Children & Families

Health & Education Resources

Food Security Resources

Equity & Access Resources

Richmond Resources

Resources for Continued Learning & Virtual Activities

Resources for Continued Learning

Here are some resources to help kids continue learning while schools are out:

Virtual Activity Ideas for Mentoring Relationships

  • Focus on asking each other questions, telling stories, sharing memories or life experiences–programs can use guided questions or prompts to facilitate these conversations.
  • Make up stories together, taking turns completing sentences or paragraphs. Mentors/mentees can even create their own story cubes that they can use virtually, or can utilize online Mad Libs.
  • Start a book, TV show, or movie clubs where they read/watch agreed upon content independently and then come together by phone, email, or text to discuss it.
  • Complete online personality or knowledge quizzes together.
  • Start a pen-pal writing campaign and if needed, refer to some writing prompts.
  • Utilize these free online learning resources for kids.
  • Read stories or books to each other over the phone or video-chat.
  • Research and explore career, college, or community service opportunities together.
  • Play 20 Questions or virtual charades on the phone or through video-chat
  • Use online coloring pages as an activity to do while talking to each other on the phone, or complete individually and mail them to the program coordinator to be forwarded to the mentor/mentee.
  • Play classic conversation games
  • Explore new blogs or share old favorites.
  • Go on a virtual tour of the world’s most famous museums including the MET, the National Gallery of Art, the MOMA, and many more.
  • Create a shared country on NationStates and work through daily governance challenges.
  • Utilize free apps on smartphones and other devices to play multiplayer games together.
  • Register for free to Sanford Harmony to access online stories, songs, and games focused on social-emotional learning that matches grades K-6 can work through together.
  • Engage in group learning and fun activities on Kahoot!
  • Check out a new podcast or Youtube channel together.
  • Watch a livestream of the Opera or Broadway performances.
  • Play the free online Scrabble alternative called Lexulous to play word games together.
  • Go on virtual field trips.
  • Play virtual bingo.
  • Watch kid-friendly TED Talks or TED ED videos together and discuss each video’s concepts and ideas.
  • If using Zoom, use the screen share option, open the whiteboard and play Hangman, Tic Tac Toe or just draw together.
  • If you have the same board games in your homes, play games that do not require you to share the same board.  Ex) Battleship, Scattergories, Guess Who, Bingo
  • Have a fashion show, where you dress up in funny costumes or themes.
  • Create a scavenger hunt for each other where they have to find everyday objects in your house and show each other.
  • Cook or bake together if you have the ingredients.
  • Watch Bob Ross videos together and try to re-create his paintings at the same time.  See whose painting comes out the funniest!

Not finding the resource you’re looking for? Contact Sarah at sarah@mentorva.org for assistance.