OJJDP was well-represented at the National Mentoring Summit, with Office grantees presenting 18 in-person and 6 virtual workshops. Convened by MENTOR, the annual conference took place January 26–27 in Washington, DC, with the theme, “Bridging Divides Through Relationships.”
“The need for effective mentoring programs is more evident now than ever,” OJJDP Administrator Liz Ryan said in plenary remarks at the conference. The Administrator cited several of the challenges young people face today—from social media’s constant scrutiny and exposure, to the bigotry imposed on youth who belong to racial and ethnic minority groups or identify as LGBTQ+, to feelings of isolation from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “Too many of our young people feel disconnected, frightened, and hopeless right now,” she said. “Mentors can help turn that around.”
“Mentoring is a powerful tool that can help young people believe in their potential, their capacity to grow and change, and their ability to create a fulfilling future for themselves.”
—OJJDP Administrator Liz Ryan, in plenary remarks at the National Mentoring Summit
A hybrid event, the summit included 78 in-person and 29 virtual workshops in all. OJJDP grantees included Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, whose four workshops included two on programs for youth who identify as LGBTQ+ or are questioning their sexual orientation; Big Brother Big Sisters Independence Region also discussed mentoring for youth who identify as LGBTQ+. Sessions emphasizing programs for youth of color and Native youth were presented by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and Youth Collaboratory. Eluna addressed mentoring for youth affected by substance misuse, while Friends of the Children spoke about the benefits of mentoring for youth mental health.
On the two days leading up to the summit, OJJDP offered an orientation for new grantees receiving fiscal year 2022 funding for mentoring programs. The Office typically times this orientation with MENTOR’s annual conference, making it easier for grantees to attend both. The orientation agenda included introductions to services offered by OJJDP’s National Mentoring Resource Center, which provides training, technical assistance, research, and other resources to youth mentoring practitioners. Other topics included credible messenger mentoring, OJJDP’s Preventing Youth Hate Crimes & Identity-Based Bullying Initiative, and best practices for grants management.
“OJJDP’s vision for the future emphasizes transformation: transforming young lives and transforming the juvenile justice system,” Administrator Ryan said when she welcomed the new grantees. “Mentoring is and always has been central to that vision.”
A Brief Primer on Youth Participatory Action Research for Mentoring Programs offers an overview of youth participatory action research (YPAR), an approach to social science research that emphasizes active participation by youth. Young people play a leading role in conducting the research, analyzing it, and applying results in the community. The publication discusses how to integrate YPAR into mentoring programs, and its benefits and challenges. OJJDP’s National Mentoring Resource Center published the primer.