Mentoring Research: Youth Mentoring

Creating an e-mentoring community.

Burgstahler S. National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET), University of Minnesota Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota, 6 Pattee Hall, 150 Pillsbury Drive SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455. Tel: 612-624-2097; Fax: 612-624-9344; e-mail:; Web site:  Information Brief of the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET).  Volume 5, Issue 4  Aug. 2006

ABSTRACT:  This brief provides an example of how to create and sustain an e-mentoring community to promote the success of youth with disabilities in school, careers, and other life experiences. Established in 1992, the DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) e-mentoring community may have been the first intentional Internet-based mentoring community for teenagers with disabilities. Its value has been documented in research and reflected in the successful lives of its participants and the willingness of those who were once proteges in the program to become e-mentors themselves.

Creating mentoring opportunities for youth with disabilities: issues and suggested strategies.

Sword C, Hill K.  U.S. Rehabilitation Services Administration. American Rehabilitation Sept. 2003.

Mentoring can have a dramatic impact on a young person’s life. Despite the increasing prevalence and importance of mentoring programs for youth in general, few of these programs, to date, intentionally include youth with disabilities.

Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of mentoring in helping youth develop skills, knowledge and motivation to successfully transition from high school to adult life (Moccia, Schumaker, Hazel, Vernon & Deshler, 1989; Rhodes, Grossman & Resch, 2000). This transition is a major goal of youth with disabilities–one supported both by school systems and by federal policy. Research on mentoring programs, however, reflects a lack of focus on specific applications of these programs for youth with disabilities. A review of 15 years of research on mentoring within organizations across the United States identifies demographics and risk factors for youth, but does not directly address disability as one of those factors (Sipe, 1999). A random national survey of 1,504 adult mentors identified several variables, such as academic performance, race and socioeconomic factors; however, it does not directly address issues of disability (McLearn, Colasanto, Schoen & Shapiro, 1999).

Youth with disabilities may be participating in mentoring programs, but program managers and mentors may be unaware of how disabilities affect mentoring relationships. The reason for this lack of attention to disability issues is unclear.


DO-IT: helping students with disabilities transition to college and careers.

Burgstahler S. Improving Secondary Education and Transition Services through Research:  Research to Practice Brief  September 2003, Vol. 2, Issue 3

SUMMARY:  This publication summarizes research on issues related to positive school and employment outcomes for students with disabilities. Second, it describes one program, DO-IT Scholars, that successfully applies research findings in a cohesive set of interventions for students who have disabilities. Last, it shares lessons that can be applied to other college and career preparation programs for teens with disabilities.

Mentoring special youth populations.

Britner P, Balcazar F, Blechman E, Blinn-Pike L, Larose S.  Department of Human Development & Family Studies, University of Connecticut, U-2058, Storrs, CT 06269-2058 Journal of Community Psychology, 34(6): 747-763.

Abstract:  Whereas mentoring programs are well received as support services, very little empirical research has been conducted to assess the effectiveness of these programs to meet the diverse needs of different special populations of youth. Potentially useful theoretical orientations (attachment, parental acceptance-rejection, social support, adult development, host provocation) and a sociomotivational model of mentoring are presented to complement Rhodes’s (2002) model. Mentoring research literatures for five special populations of youth (abused and neglected youth, youth who have disabilities, pregnant and parenting adolescents, juvenile offenders, academically at-risk students) are critiqued. Systemic, longitudinal research must address the cooccurrence of risk factors, populations, and interventions. We conclude with specific recommendations for future research.


Mentors: paving the transition from school to adulthood for students with disabilities.

Wilson J.  American Rehabilitation, Autumn, 2003

The word transition announces a time of change, and change is often accompanied by growth, uncertainty and possibility.

The transition from K-12 education to the world of work or higher education is both a trying and exciting time for most young adults, but it can be particularly stressful for students with disabilities. While everyone can recall times when they encountered difficulties in school, many of those experienced by students with disabilities are unique and not completely addressed under the current systems of services to individuals with disabilities. For instance, students with disabilities do not always have access to necessary classroom materials and technology. At the same time, transition-age youth often struggle with social acceptance and negative stereotypes about their disabilities, frequently are unable to participate in extracurricular activities and are not always taught the disability-specific skills and techniques they need to succeed at school and life.

Partners for youth with disabilities.

Snowden R. American Rehabilitation, Autumn, 2003

Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) is a nonprofit organization committed to empowering youth with disabilities through connecting them with mentors and role models. For nearly 20 years, PYD has developed a wide range of mentoring programs, including Youth in Preparation for Independence, Making Healthy Connections. Young Entrepreneurs Project, Access Io Theatre, and Partners On line. All of these programs connect youth with disabilities with individuals who serve as positive role models and who provide them with invaluable support, information and assistance with goal setting and career planning.

Studies demonstrate that youth with disabilities significantly benefit by participating in mentoring programs. This is especially true for students transitioning from school to work. Fortunately, mentoring programs can easily be incorporated into the transition planning of students with disabilities when service providers have the right information.

Two mentorship case studies of high school and university students with disabilities: milestones and lessons.

Stumbo N, Blegen A, Lindahl-Lewis PJournal of Rehabilitation, July-Sept, 2008

As of 2003, over four million individuals aged 20 or under were experiencing a disability, representing approximately 15 percent of all same-aged individuals (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2003). This represents a slightly higher incidence of disability than the 12.6 percent of working-age adults reporting a disability in 2005 (StatsRRTC, 2005). However, of working-age adults with disabilities, only 38.1 percent reported working, with only 22.6 percent working full-time for the full year (StatsRRTC, 2005). Smith (2007) noted that persons with disabilities continue to experience notably lower rates of employment than persons without disabilities and that interventions are needed to impact these discrepancies.

Mentorships are one example of an intervention aimed at decreasing risk factors and increasing the likelihood of success for persons with disabilities. Mentorships for individuals with disabilities have been widely advocated, although not well-researched (Coombs-Richardson, 2002; Powers, Sowers, & Stevens, 1995; Snowden, 2003; Sword & Hill, 2003; Whelley, Radtke, Burgstahler, & Christ, 2003; Wilson, 2003). DuBois and Rhodes (2006), in establishing a national research agenda for youth mentoring, called for “best practice” program descriptions that produce positive outcomes. The purpose of this article is to describe two related, but independent mentorship programs for secondary and post-secondary students with disabilities. Descriptions on the recruitment, orientation, design, and evaluation of the two programs will be highlighted. Outcome data, where available, will be included.