LIFe Refugee Youth Mentoring Project

Help new Americans see what is out there.
Help them learn their way forward.
Expand your own world.
Become a mentor now!

Welcome to the Learning into the Future (LIFE) Mentoring program for refugee youth! We’re excited to help you better understand the goals, roles of the mentor, time commitment, and support you can expect as a valued JFS volunteer. 

About JFS

In the past three years, JFS has resettled over 320 refugees from around the globe. From securing apartments before arrival, to picking up new arrivals at the airport, taking people to medical and other appointments, and helping newcomers learn English and find jobs, JFS staff and volunteers work tirelessly to help new Americans learn about their new world and feel safe and welcome in Springfield.

Why This Program?

While their resilient parents start to find jobs, learn English, pay the rent, and learn their way around the many social service agencies, refugee youth face their own challenges: social isolation at school, pressures from parents eager for their children to succeed, and often a significant  language barrier, to name a few. Research shows that immigrant or refugee youth and parents experience a disconnect that widens as youth learn English and acculturate to the U.S.. Many parents come to depend on their children, and relationships can become strained as the dynamics of the typical family unit become inverted. (1)

Refugee youth have a great need for support, positive role models, and exposure to the many opportunities which are “out there,” yet hidden from their view. While these youth bring with them many strengths, much determination, and great potential, they lack social connections, information, and insider knowledge about possible college and career futures. This is where YOU come in!

Program Goals

The primary goals of LIFe Mentoring are to:

● assist young refugees between the ages of 15-24 in setting and reaching personal, academic, career, and other goals;
● broaden young refugees’ exposure to possible careers and opportunities for education and training;
● develop the communication skills and confidence young people need to take more control of their lives and their future; and
● support intercultural, intergenerational relationships that facilitate successful refugee integration into American society and offer mentors a tangible and experiential way to learn about the lives, needs, and potential of refugees in Western Massachusetts.

Benefits of Being a Mentor

Mentoring a young refugee is rewarding, uplifting, fun, and challenging. 
● Mentoring offers the chance to do something meaningful, positive, and impactful - and something that aligns with one’s deeply-held values;
● Mentors enjoy helping (and watching) youth develop over time;
● Mentors often discover that they have more to offer a young person than they thought;
● Mentoring challenges mentors’ assumptions and expands their understanding of global and local issues, adolescent development, immigration, language learning and many other topics;  Many mentors enjoy sharing their learning with friends and work colleagues, who often thank them for deepening their own understanding.
● Mentors develop intercultural communication skills that prove useful in their personal and professional lives.

Being a mentor is a learning experience for the mentor AND the mentee!

Roles Mentors Play

Mentors impact the lives of their mentees in many ways. They help with:
Social and Cultural Integration - affirming mentees’ cultures and helping them understand and integrate into American culture and systems. Mentors help mentees explore careers, interests, and new recreational activities.
Emotional Support - providing a sense of connection and belonging to youth who often feel like outsiders among their peers and who may experience conflict with their families as they integrate into American culture. Mentors become trusted friends.
Advice and Teaching - offering counsel; helping with homework, college or job applications; assisting a mentee in getting a driver’s permit or license, learning to swim, etc…
Role Modeling  - serving as models for how a responsible student approaches schoolwork, how a professional thinks about careers, and how a mature adult handles time management, goal-setting, commitments, opportunities, conflicts, etc…
Communication Skills - assisting mentees to improve English language skills, technology skills (how to email or text in a professional manner), how to interact with adults in a way that engenders trust and connection, etc..

The Mentor Commitment

Mentoring is an extremely gratifying activity, and as with any meaningful relationship, it requires time, dedication, and support. Mentees all have experienced serious disruptions and adversity in their early years. Many have lost people very close to them, so it is important for mentors to understand and honor the commitment they make to mentees. All mentors participate in orientation and training sessions (2-3 hours) before beginning, as well as other occasional trainings during their tenure.They also are required to join in regularly scheduled check-ins with JFS staff and other mentors - something past mentors have said is not only essential to their continued learning and ability to support mentees, but enjoyable, as well. 

There are two different kinds of mentors in the 2020 program: group mentors and one-on-one mentors.

Group mentoring includes meeting online (via Zoom) with 2-3 mentees together for 1.5 hours each week from the end of August through mid-November to get to know your mentees, and explore topics and engage in activities provided by JFS. Meetings will be scheduled at the same time each week, typically after school, in the evening, or on week-ends.
One-on-One Mentoring includes meeting online (via Zoom) with one mentee from August through March. You and your mentee will schedule your meetings at a time that works for you both and will be provided with topics and resources to structure your work together. You are free, of course, to offer other support and experiences that respond to your mentee’s interests or needs, as well.

All mentors are asked to enter their hours regularly in the JFS volunteer online database so we can easily report to our funders about the essential work of our volunteers. (Don’t worry - very simple!)

The JFS Commitment

JFS commits to supporting mentors by providing training and orientation in the initial months after the match, and being responsive to mentor concerns throughout the program. We will also provide opportunities for mentors to share experiences and learn from one another, and we will support the youth through case management, therapy, and referrals to other services, as needed. JFS is deeply grateful to mentors who dedicate their time and energy to helping youth achieve their goals. If there is any support or advice needed, mentors should never hesitate to reach out.

To begin the application, please click here.

For more information, please contact Janet Kaplan-Bucciarelli at j.kaplanb@jfswm.org or Farana Samad at f.samad@jfswm.org. 

(1) “Urban Tactics: Translating for Parents Means Growing Up Fast” New York Times. August 26, 2001 https://www.nytimes.com/2001/08/26/nyregion/urban-tactics-translating-for-parents-means-growing-up-fast.html

(2) Thanks to The National Mentoring Partnership for their materials which informed this document: Immigrant and Refugee Youth: A Toolkit for Program Coordinators, and Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring (2015).