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National Center on Secondary Education and Transition: Creating opportunities for youth with disabilities to achieve successful futures.

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Youth Mentoring

This topic explores how mentoring provided to youth by caring adults can help youth and adults with professional development, growth, and support, and how it can benefit the overall community.


Mentoring, commonly defined as knowledgeable, experienced persons supporting the personal or professional development of less knowledgeable or experienced persons, has been shown to support healthy youth development in a variety of ways, including fostering positive attitudes about school and the future, decreasing the likelihood of initiating drug or alcohol use, improving feelings of academic competence, improving academic performance, and improving relationships with friends and family members (Campbell-Whatley, 2001; Tierney, Grossman, & Resch, 1995).

Mentoring has also been shown to help youth develop the skills, knowledge, and motivation needed to successfully transition from high school to adult life, a major goal for students with disabilities (Rhodes, Grossman, & Resch, 2000). Specifically, Campbell-Whatley (2001) found that mentoring may positively impact students with disabilities’ transition goals, including developing career awareness, developing social skills, succeeding academically, and overcoming barriers. For these reasons and others, the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability/Youth recommendations for healthy youth development for youth with disabilities specifically include mentoring activities (2003). Youth with disabilities are not the only ones to benefit from mentoring; Hill, Timmons, and Opsal (2010) note that “Mentoring offers the potential for mentors to learn more about the skills and abilities of youth with disabilities, while minimizing some of the myths about the occupational potential of this population.”

There are many different types of mentoring, including the traditional face-to-face, one-on-one community-based model; group mentoring; and electronic mentoring or e-mentoring.



Campbell-Whatley, G. (2001). Mentoring students with mild disabilities: The “nuts and bolts” of program development. Intervention in School and Clinic, 36, 211–216.

Hill, K., Timmons, J., & Opsal, C. (2010). Meeting the needs of adolescents and young adults with disabilities: An e-mentoring approach. In D. Scigliano (Ed.), Telementoring in the K-12 classroom: Online communication technologies for learning. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Rhodes, J. E., Grossman, J. B., & Resch, N. L. (2000). Agents of change: Pathways through which mentoring relationships influence adolescents' academic adjustment. Child Development, 71(6), 1662-71.

Tierney, J. P., Grossman, J. B., & Resch, N. L. (1995). Making a difference: An impact study of Big Brothers Big Sisters. Philadelphia, PA: Public/Private Ventures.

Timmons, J., Mack, M., Sims, A., Hare, R., & Wills, J. (2006). Paving the way to work: A guide to career-focused mentoring for youth with disabilities. Washington, DC: National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth, Institute for Educational Leadership.

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This page was last updated on January 12, 2022.