UVA Today: Three Ways to Become a Better Mentor


Michael Lyons, a school psychologist at the Curry School of Education and Human Development, has researched mentoring for years. (Photo from UVA Today article)

We loved reading UVA Today’s article, “Three Ways to Become a Better Mentor.” Dr. Michael Lyons, a school psychologist at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education and Human Development, has researched mentoring for years and said that mentoring is more complex than it appears.

While specifically referring to UVA students and mentoring, the principles also apply to mentoring youth. “Effective mentoring relationships are definitely not accidental,” he said. Reflecting on the latest research about mentoring, Lyons shares three tips for making mentoring relationships effective.

1. Begin and Stay Curious: The more mentors can ask questions about how their mentee sees the world and their place in it, the more understanding and empathy the mentor will have to offer. Lyons suggests asking open-ended questions that provide the opportunity for the young person to share about their own experiences. 

2. Set Goals: While it might seem daunting to incorporate goal-setting in mentor/mentee relationships, Lyons suggests that the goals do not need to be overly complicated or taxing. Goals should stem from what a mentee wants – help in a class, perhaps, or improve their relationships with friends and family. Mentors who set small goals with their mentees can help mentees monitor their progress in reaching those bigger goals.

3. Express Yourself! Mentors may help unstick the relationship by letting their mentee know how they are feeling. The worst-case scenario is when mentees stop expressing themselves, stop talking and ultimately disengage entirely, Lyons warns. In contrast, giving mentees time to express themselves can help them stay engaged.

“These relationships have the potential to make a significant difference in the lives of the students,” Lyons said. With a few tips in hand, mentors can develop positive relationships and help shape youths’ academic and behavioral development.

At C4K mentors and youth learn STEAM skills through project-based learning.

Mentoring at C4K

Volunteer mentors are an essential part of C4K. Mentors can work with youth in two different ways: weekly 1:1 mentoring or group mentoring in our Clubhouse maker space and Engineering & Robotics Lab.

At C4K, we’re fortunate to have a diverse community of mentors who volunteer once a week to learn and grow alongside local youth. Our mentor community is made up of UVA students, faculty and staff, local engineers, scientists, designers, retirees, business-owners — a truly diverse cross-section of our community.

UVA students interested in volunteering as a C4K Mentor can gain volunteer credits through Madison House. Speak to Max Madani, Madison House’s Youth Mentoring Program Director.

Read the full UVA Today article here.