July 16, 2020 – Virtual or Blended Mentoring Program Decisions During COVID

What Have We Learned/Successes

  • Afternoon/evening is best
  • Having the kid’s primary contact text right before the event helps getting kids to log in
  • Denver Kids is putting together a virtual programming guide
  • One call had a breakout room with only one youth/room which really seemed to flow better than expected.
  • In-person event going fishing with a lot of extra steps for COVID. Transportation was difficult but the event went well with 15 people. They needed a few more staff to monitor but balancing the ratio is tough.
  • Reduced expectation for time for mentors has relieved a lot of stress and increased engagement
  • Small groups are better than large groups 
  • Hybrid of social distance in person working best 
  • Positive: using this time to rewrite curriculum and strengthen program within 
  • Use of activities/gift cards to get kids to log on to virtual 
  • Having more success where deeper relationships already existed
  • For the brand new relationships, virtual is all they’ve known and that is going well
  • Young people are eager to talk about racial injustice
  • Make sure parents/guardians are on board – be very clear with communication and expectations
  • Provide a lot of different opportunities to connect and activities – different things appeal to different young people
  • Combination of formal and informal; individual and group
  • Have a learner’s mindset
  • For ideas – brainstorm with teachers as they’ve had to get very creative since distance learning started
  • Re: Getting youth to show up to virtual mentoring: Give them voice and choice about what they talk about. Topics such as COVID, BLM, Returning back to school, etc. are those that youth are interested in – and thus will show up
  • Being open & honest about the state of the program with mentees, families, and mentors is the best way to move forward with them – Share what’s been decided and why, what they know, what they don’t know, etc. Acknowledging that public health restrictions are different in different counties.
  • Mentors had difficulty adjusting at first – but then have been incredibly creative in light of physical distancing.
  • Assessing all parties within the match for their COVID risk-tolerance has been a critical step
  • Getting creative and allowing for creativity in the face of public health limitations.
  • Community members and family members are super grateful, super responsive and much more engaged with the program
  • Similarly the outreach from the general public and business has been overwhelming and incredibly encouraging.

Questions/Needs That Still Exist: 

  • How do we keep nurturing relationships when they’re virtual?
  • Challenges around getting people to show up and participate 
  • If we go into a virtual model, what are people’s success in connecting with schools?
    • Connecting to one key person at high level across district
    • Administrative assistants are best contacts for ongoing and higher contact in each school
    • Using stats to “sell” program
  • Predicting it is going to get worse in the fall. How do you start a virtual only relationship? But agree for the virtual to transition to in-person later? How to get mentors to agree to ever-changing relationships?
  • Virtual opens up geography but is that sustainable long term?
    • Would be easier to take from virtual to in-person than vice-versa?
    • Have adults be part of the process as a whole
  • How to recruit kids to a fully virtual program, especially when activities are used as a hook?
  • How do we ensure child safety? When in-person they always have a school liaison monitoring interactions. How do you ensure child safety when on-on-one to monitor meetings (virtual or off-site)? They go through all the screening and background checks– but parents are asking. How do you transition to unsupervised 1:1? (As opposed to building the program that way)
    • Follow-up questions and recording virtual sessions
  • New program looking for more info on automobile liability with mentors allowed to drive mentees
  • Not knowing what the school situation is going to be. Will we be allowed in?
  • Are people having conversations with their school districts? How can we help them? Is anyone having success with actively partnering with them?
  • Need new activity ideas! Both virtual and socially distant in-person ideas.
  • How are we handling evaluation? Are our programs as impactful when virtual? How do we measure or track that?
  • Safety in virtual mentoring and health concerns of in-person
  • How to connect with disengaged mentors/mentees
  • How do we deal with mentors who 1) disengage from both us and their mentee? 2) continue to meet with their mentee but disengage with program staff? (they seem to be using COVID as an excuse)
  • How do we deal with students who are unresponsive in the midst of all virtual programming?
  • What advice do we give mentors about whether riding in cars with their mentees is safe or not? If it’s not safe, what advice do we give mentors about what they can/can’t do with their mentee in the mentee’s neighborhood
  • How safe is it to go back to school?
  • If required to take what was an in-person program and go virtual for a full year – how do we keep matches interested and engaged?
  • How are we going to deal with another shutdown?
  • We are still dealing with internet access and access to devices – what resources exist to help young people and families gain access to internet and devices?


  • NEW! Crowdsourced Activities Sheet – add your virtual or socially distant activities! – LINK
  • MENTOR Colorado Free Consulting (Technical Assistance) – LINK

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