Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is a mentor?
A: A mentor is an adult friend who, along with parents and family, provides a child with guidance and positive reinforcement. Volunteer mentors are asked to join Talbot Mentors for a minimum of one year, with the goal of spending at least 1-2 hours a week with their mentee outside of school and to build over time a relationship with the child. Effective mentors focus on being a reliable presence in the child’s life and sharing fun. This approach helps develop a sense of trust, offers new learning opportunities and makes the experience enjoyable for both the adult and child.
Q: How do new students get matched with mentors?
A: Talbot Mentors strives to identify Talbot County children in grades K-12, but with a focus on K -5 who are in need of extra adult guidance and support. If you would like your child considered for the program, please speak with his/her school Guidance Counselor. Decisions to enroll new students are made on a case-by-case basis. The volunteer nature of our program makes it impossible to match every child in need of extra support. Consider that mentors are a limited resource. There are simply not enough volunteers, especially male volunteers, to meet the demand.
Mentors are not trained therapists, tutors or juvenile service workers. They are not equipped to assist all kids. Experience has shown that volunteers matched with kids whose needs they cannot meet are more likely to quit prematurely. We don’t want to set any child up for this disappointment.
Q: What about the parents?
No match is made without the support of a child’s parent or guardian. There are several interactions with parents throughout the mentee enrollment process to make sure they feel their child could benefit from mentoring. The parent is also part of the match meeting, when the mentor and mentee first meet. And, parents are invited to attend organized mentee-mentor activities.
Q: Is there a long wait for mentors?
A: We try to match mentors and children who share similar interests and attitudes. Matches are same sex. Finding the best mentor for a child can take months. We have learned that this care in matching helps the relationships last longer.
Q: What kind of people are mentors?
A: Mentors are volunteers from various walks of life who share an interest in children. Mentors must be at least 21 years old. Most, however, are 50 or older. Before being matched, volunteers must complete a written application, provide three references, take part in a one-on-one interview, complete on-line training and attend our in-person orientation session. Talbot Mentors also completes criminal background and motor vehicle checks.
Q: How many mentor / mentee pairs are currently served?
While the exact numbers fluctuate year to year, Talbot Mentors generally supports at least 75 matched pairs at any given time.
Q: How many mentees have participated in the program since its inception?
Approximately 350 children.
Q: What are the major programs?
Partners In Art; Send our kids to Camp; Service Learning Opportunities; After School Club including tutoring
Q: How are mentees referred to the program?
All of our referrals come through guidance counsellors at schools in Talbot County.
Q: Is there any monitoring of the mentor / mentee relationships?
TM has a Case Manager that communicates with pairs via email and phone calls. If necessary, TM does home visits.
Q: How are mentors screened?
Potential mentors are interviewed by the Executive Director to determine whether they are good candidates, and to ensure they are aware of expectations. Background checks are run, and letters of recommendation are requested. TM determines, based on the mentee list, if there is a compatible match.
Purpose: Ensures a safe and positive experience for mentees and volunteers
Purpose: Introduces volunteers to the practices of effective mentoring, and shares tips for interacting with at-risk youth
Purpose: Considers the preferences of parents, kids and mentors; uses staff to assess which volunteer would work best with which child
Supervision and Support
Purpose: Professional staff member maintains a schedule of contact with the child, mentor and parent
Q: How do I sign up?
Complete the application and background check consent forms and return them to Talbot Mentors. You will then be contacted for an in-person interview, and we will run the background checks and check references. After that, you will be required to complete on-line training and an in-person orientation session.
Q: Why mentoring?
Ideally, every child has a variety of adults around as they are growing up – including parents and family, neighbors, teachers, church members, coaches, etc. However, changes in lifestyle and community sometimes mean that fewer children have a support network. While parents and family are responsible for raising their kids, mentors can provide additional nurturing and support to help children with the challenges and opportunities in their lives.
Q: What if I’m too different to relate well with a child?
Many first-time volunteers worry that differences in age, race, education or some other factor will be a barrier. Actually, most experienced mentors report that mentoring a child from a different background broadened their own horizons. Mentors who focused on sharing fun and being a reliable presence found that the perceived differences did not pose a challenge.
Q: I am away/travel at times during the year. Would that preclude me from being a mentor?
Not necessarily. It may be possible to match the mentor and child when they have several months to build the relationship prior to the travel time. Talbot Mentors can suggest ideas to keep in contact during the absence such as phone calls, e-mails and postcards.
Q: Why do kids want mentors?
Our mentees tell us that they like having mentors because they want someone to talk to, and someone to “do stuff” with. Many mentees live in single parent families where that parent is working so hard to support the family that there isn’t much time for one-on-one time together. Having a mentor gives these children the opportunity to be the sole focus of a caring adult on a regular basis.
Q: What do mentors and mentees do together?
Mentors and mentees see each other outside of school, enjoying activities in the community. For some kids, it’s a new opportunity to experience life outside their neighborhood. Each relationship is unique and develops according to the interests and personalities of the individuals. Examples of shared activities include:
- Going to the YMCA together
- Trips to attractions such as the Baltimore Aquarium or the monuments in DC
- Reading and board games
- Sports like shooting hoops or golfing
- Activities like horseback riding or kayaking
- Creating arts or craft projects
- Doing homework or preparing for a job interview together
- Sharing a meal and chatting
- Cooking and baking
- Building models and woodworking
Within these simple activities, there are many opportunities to reinforce what the kids are learning at school and to pass along valuable life lessons. Most important is that the mentee is engaged in learning and enjoying the relationship as well as the activities.
How is Talbot Mentors funded?
Our mentoring services are offered at no cost to mentees. We rely on the generous financial support of many individuals, organizations and foundations.
Is a donation to Talbot Mentors tax-deductible?
Yes. Talbot Mentors is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
What will my financial support of the organization be used for?
Programs, mentee support, mentor support, events and operational and administrative costs.
How can I support Talbot Mentors?
You can support Talbot Mentors by:
- Responding to the semi-annual fund raising appeals;
- Attending or sponsoring events such as the Spring Brunch and Eastern Shore Comedy and Fun Festival;
- Making a gift of cash or stock;
- Including Talbot Mentors in your estate planning; and
- Making a pledge to donate a specified amount to Talbot Mentors over a specified period of months or years.
Can I designate my gift for special activities or parts of TM’s program?
Yes. If important to you, TM is happy to direct your contribution for special use. However, please keep in mind that our primary service is making and supporting the mentoring relationship. Funding for that service will help more at-risk children in our community get the one-on-one support of a caring adult mentor now and in the years ahead.