Youth Mentoring

Youth mentoring is a structured, one-to-one relationship or partnership that focuses on the needs of young people. A strong mentoring program has these characteristics:

  • Fosters caring and supportive relationships
  • Encourages youth to develop to their fullest potential in school, at home, and in the workplace
  • Helps a young person to develop his or her own vision for the future
  • Builds active community partnerships

Learn more about the impact of youth mentoring with the following resources:

Mentorship Stories

As part of National Mentoring Month, mentors and mentees told us what mentoring has meant to them and how it has affected their lives. We want to continue to share your inspirational stories throughout the year. If you would like to share your experience of being either a mentor or mentee please email a photo of the two of you together and a 500 character (including spaces) submission to:

Lauren Ruszczyk

Organization: The SEED Foundation


I’ve found that tutoring for one hour a week isn’t a lot of time to form a personal relationship, which is important to me. Shakayla and I have been working together for two years now, so she’s opened up more. We spend time on the weekends together, going to museums or the library.  This connection has given me the chance to learn about things outside of my regular circle, and I think I’ve given her a new perspective too. We talk about where she wants to travel, which is something I love to do, and college life. - Lauren Ruszczyk, Mentor

Courtney Crittenden

Organization: The SEED Foundation


I love to see the smiles on kids’ faces when I come through SEED’s doors. I’m not a teacher, I’m just someone volunteering my time. The students know I’m not there to get paid, so they are appreciative of me. It feels good to know that I’m helping others and making a difference in the world. It’s also really rewarding to see the growth in my students—to see them not know material at the beginning of the year and then be ready for the AP test at the end of the year. That’s pretty exciting. Courtney Crittenden, Mentor

Aidan Skoyles and D'Jahne

Organization: The SEED Foundation

My students and I have built mutual respect for each other over the three years I’ve been tutoring. I do my best to show up every week and try to make learning fun. I’m a patent litigator by day, and a pre-Calculus tutor by night. Sure, I’m busy at work like everyone else, but I try to find the time to head to tutoring. I also try to take an interest in their lives beyond pre-calculus. I want them to know I’m not just there to teach them natural logarithms, I really do care about them. - Aidan Skoyles, Mentor 

I’m getting tutored in pre-Calculus because I’m having difficulties in it. I want to be an interior designer so I know I’m going to need math. Aidan makes tutoring fun—but not to the extent where we’re not learning! If we don’t understand something, he breaks it down until we do. It’s important to get tutored if you are struggling in something and want to succeed. You shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for help. - D'Jahne, Mentee

Hunter Ross and Naimen

Organization: The SEED Foundation


I commute in from my job in Tysons Corner, Virginia to tutor and mentor middle school boys at SEED. My students and I talk about everything from pre-Algebra problems to issues in their personal lives. Last year, I had one student who over the course of sixth months opened up to me about some challenges he was having at home. It was rewarding to see the positive effect that talking through these issues had on his academic performance. His work became more complete, and his grades improved. - Hunter Ross, Mentor

Mr. Ross works with me every week. Every day he comes here, he’s always here to help me. He and I have fun and play games, even though he’s really here to tutor me. If I get stuck on something, he’ll turn it into a game on the whiteboard. I’m getting my grade up in math, and it’s helping me in life too. Using things he does to teach me, I know how to teach my little brother. - Naimen, Mentee

Brannen Blazer and Giovanna

Organization: The SEED Foundation

The students at SEED benefit from my experience and knowledge; I benefit from their enthusiasm, fervor, and intrigue. I love tutoring because of the students' strong desire and true eagerness to learn. Knowing that my efforts are truly wanted and appreciated is very rewarding. On a different note, but equally important to me, is that I feel that many of the world's problems can be solved by educating our youth. Together, we're making strides to improve one another and the world. - Brannen Blazer, Mentor

Brannen is funny and cool. He makes being tutored actually fun. He doesn’t just tutor me, he tells me about his job and his college experiences. I have similar school experiences that he had when he was younger so we connected that way quickly. He motivates me to do better. I want to go to Harvard, so I need to keep my grades up! - Giovanna, Mentee

Joi Baker and Janelle Allen

Organization: The SEED Foundation


Janelle’s strength makes mentoring her so rewarding. She may not know it, but SHE inspires ME. She empowers me and is my constant reminder of what it means to be persistent and positive in the face of challenges. She juggles a full course load, job, and responsibilities at home. Sure, just like everyone else, she’s had some setbacks, but no matter what, I’m always there to support her and listen to her. I’ll always be in her corner. - Joi Baker, Mentor

There is nothing Joi Baker doesn’t do for me. No matter what, she is always there…she’s my “lucky charm”!  I feel like whenever I’m emotional or stressed, I look up, and there she is to help me through it. She’s always making sure I stick to my priorities and goals. I feel like I always come to Ms. Baker with lots of thoughts and ideas, and she magically helps me make sense of them, organize them, and reach a good decision. She has no idea how much I appreciate her. - Janelle Allen, Mentee

Garrett (Gee) James

Organization: Youth Resolution Project

I want to say everything has inspired me to become a mentor. What I’d rather answer is what keeps me mentoring. I love it. Realizing the effect that we can have on others and wanting young people to have more of a head start than I did continues to inspire me to mentor. I think that it’s directly connected to one of the reasons that I’m on earth – to pour the little that I have into others daily. I fully believe that long lasting change can only be had inside of true relationship and that’s my goal – to build relationships with youth so that they are better because of it. And the icing on the cake is to have them then build other positive relationships of good influence. I mentor now so I can sleep at night and be at peace. If it sounds deep, that’s because it is.


Organization: The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth


I’m so thankful for the influence that Karen Snyder had in my life when I was a teen. She was the music director at our church and she noticed my talent for singing and encouraged me to develop it. Through her mentoring, I developed the self-confidence to sing solos in church and at school, an activity that developed my sense of self-worth as a teen. She was also a great source of support during times when I experienced challenges and disappointments.


Organization: The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth

Growing up, I didn’t know them to be my mentors, but as my coaches in every sport imaginable from basketball to track, swimming to tennis. They were the people that made me run suicides when I messed up a play or benched me when I was late to practice. These were the first truly successful people that I knew with disabilities. They were wheelchair users with careers and Paralympic medals who all wanted to give back to their community for the success they had achieved. They were giving so that I could experience that same success, so that when it was my time, I would know the lessons: that there is no substitute for hard work and practice; that 15 minutes early is on time; that feedback doesn’t mean failure and so many other lessons that continue to impact my life daily.


Organization: The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth


My 10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Seigel, really nurtured my (up until then) secret love of writing.  In her class, we always started by writing in our journals.  Sometimes, she gave us a topic but often it was just whatever we cared about but the catch was, we had to keep writing for 10 minutes straight.  Having to write for 10 minutes without lifting your pen really decreases your self-editing!  Mrs. Seigel often remarked on how creative and funny my writing was and asked me to read for the class.  She even submitted a few of my papers to the student newspaper.  Up until that time, I had never thought of my writing (or voice) as anything special.  I believe a true mentor sees beautiful powerful things in you that you may not see in yourself and then helps you to grow that beauty and eventually find your own powerful voice!

Cara Blumenthal

Organization: The SEED Foundation


After reading about DC’s low graduation rate and learning about my friend’s experience tutoring at SEED, I decided to give back. I see something special in the students I work with, whether it is their surprising knack for mental math, their energetic attitude, or their sense of humor. The most rewarding part about being a mentor is helping students understand something that they did not understand before. That moment when it clicks in their minds is so satisfying for the students and mentors. - Cara Blumenthal, Mentor

Tiffany Blacknall and Diamond Douglas

Organization: The SEED Foundation


Diamond gives me life. What started out as a transactional relationship has blossomed into something so much more. Every time she has a victory or passes a life milestone, it reinvigorates me. She has the hope, drive, and desire to succeed, and, as a mentor, it’s my role to guide her to the path that will allow her to achieve her goals.  I wouldn’t say mentoring her is rewarding—it’s so much more than that. I feel full, I feel blessed. - Tiffany Blacknall, Mentor

Ms. Blacknall and I started working together as “strictly business.” But then she started to consistently check up on me because she knew I was going through some hard times. Sometimes I didn’t want to confront challenges I was having, but she worked with me to accept reality and grow from my experiences. She’s also been my motivation to continue on with college. Because of her, I re-enrolled in college and have dreams of going to graduate school after I’m done here. - Diamond Douglas, Mentee

Daria Harrison

Organization: Digital Media Arts Club


I am a mentor because I want to change lives. As an American Graduate Fellow, I train Washington, DC students in the art of media production and digital literacy. The Digital Media Arts Clubs (dMAC) is an opportunity for students to use audio and video to tell their own unique stories. Some of the students are exceptional; they have good grades, participate in several extra-curricular activities, and are college bound. However, I have other students who struggle in class because they are disengaged from the learning process–but are unbelievable artists. I use their talent as motivation to get them to think about their futures and they understand that graduating high school is a necessary requirement on their road to success.  When we give our students hope, a vision, and realistic steps to obtaining that vision, we change lives. 

Shakeria Reed

Organization: DC Scores


I chose to be a mentor because I wanted to give back to my community and be a role model for the youth. Be someone who they looked up to. I grew up with a mentor and remembered how important it was to have another older adult figure in my life, someone other than my mother.  An older figure to guide me and help me pursue future endeavors and I wanted to be that for young people. Some challenges that I face being a mentor are realizing you can’t help as much as circumstances allow you. You want to be a huge support and leverage to the kids you work with, but some situations just cannot be solved.  Youth come to you in confidence about their feelings and their home life and you want to help as much as possible but there is a line in that mentoring relationship that must not be crossed.  You just hope that your presence, friendship and support enough.  And these feeling become validated when I consistently show up and offer what I can: my presence, an ear to listen and advice.

Emily Schulman

Organization: DC Scores


Not too long ago that I faced the grueling halls of middle school. As a middle school student you are inundated with new viable variables in your life. Balancing all of them can seem like a daunting and impossible task. As a mentor, I help to sort those variables out. Often times a child’s intentions are good, but there are so many other distractions fogging their view, that without the support of a mentor, someone who can see beyond the fog, it’s easy to get lost. The most rewarding part about being a mentor is helping your mentee get through the fog; being the out stretched hand that gives them the extra nudge to success. 

Vincena Allen and Monique Matthews

Organization: The SEED Foundation

It may appear that the mentor is the "giver", but mentoring is not a one-way relationship. I learn so much from my mentees, but they probably don't realize how inspiring they are to me. What is so rewarding about mentoring is seeing them take what I've taught them and then share that learning with others. Monique, who I've been mentoring for 7 years, is a wonderful example of this.  She has already become a mentor in her own right because she naturally shares the wisdom she has learned with her peers and family. It's a full circle. - Vincena Allen, Mentor

Having mentors are lifelong relationships that are created on principles of love, compassion, trust and growth. My mentors have helped me become the person I am today. They have been my backbone and provided motivation that kept me going when I wanted to give up. While in school I was able to talk to my mentors, including Vincena Allen, at any time, and receive words of strength. Partly because of the encouragement from my mentors, I have continued through school to receive my Master’s Degree. - Monique Matthews, Mentee

Melissa Freedman and Ayana Gallego

Organization: The SEED Foundation

It’s hard for me not to give a direct answer when Ayana asks “What should I do?” Instead, I ask questions to make her think more or think about a situation differently. I’m not here to tell her what to do, I’m here to be her guide, supporter, and cheerleader. I think that approach has worked…we started working together when she was in high school and now she’s a college graduate. She’s hasn’t gotten there because of who I am, she’s gotten there because of who she is—a strong, confident young woman. - Melissa Freedman, Mentor

To this day, Melissa Freedman, my mentor from high school, continues to support my endeavors as an alumna. Even during my most difficult periods in life I know that I can count on her to push me to go above what is expected. While demonstrating how hard work and determination can lead to a better future, she praises my accomplishments and provides advice on things needing improvement. What I appreciate the most is when I doubt myself, she believes in me – providing me with the confidence to succeed. - Ayana Brown, Mentee

Torrance Hill

Organization: Digital Media Arts Club

For me mentoring is important because it is an opportunity to change lives. As a kid my mentor was one of the most important people in my life. I now want to be that teacher, supporter and motivator for my students. The students in the Digital Media Arts Club are very important to me. We have great relationships; I am committed to them, I want nothing but the best for them and they trust me. My time as an American Graduate Fellow has been a rewarding experience. I am growing to be a better person because of this experience. The students are just as important to me as I am to them.