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Study Documents Benefits Of Adult Mentor Program

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Two-thirds of the adult-youth partnerships established through a national mentoring program proved to be effective relationships that were satisfying to both parties, an independent study has found.

The report, the first product of a four-year research initiative examining several mentoring programs, also found that the most effective relationships in the Linking Lifetimes program were those in which the youth had a voice in determining the types of activities the pair engaged in.

The study was conducted between April 1990 and March 1991 by Public/Private Ventures, a not-for-profit corporation in Philadelphia that designs and evaluates programs that serve youths.

Developed by Temple University's Center for Intergenerational Learning, Linking Lifetimes unites mentors ages 55 and older with at-risk youths ages 12 to 17.

The P.P.V. study focused on 26 mentoring pairs interviewed at Learning Lifetimes programs in Springfield, Mass.; Memphis; Los Angeles; and Miami.

The authors of the P.P.V. study called "significant'' the finding that the majority of relationships flourished, and noted that improvements in screening and training of volunteers might lead to an even higher success rate.

The majority of the youths interviewed reported being interested in the program in order to "go places'' with the mentor, and the report's authors said mentors should be encouraged to do just that initially.

Mentors should also be told, the report said, that following the youth's interests builds trust, an important program goal.

'Good Common Sense'

The Linking Lifetimes study offers "a lot of good common sense that can boil down to good programmatic sense,'' said Michael A. Bailin, president of P.P.V.

In addition to Linking Lifetimes, the P.P.V. research will examine two of its own programs as well as Big Brothers/Big Sisters programs, college-based mentoring programs funded by Campus Compact, and programs sponsored by the I Have a Dream Foundation in Washington.

By examining such diverse programs, the organization will try to gauge mentoring's usefulness as an intervention for at-risk youths and help shed light on a little-studied public-policy area.

"With all you have heard about mentoring, with all that noise, there is very little known about in what instances it works or doesn't work,'' Mr. Bailin said.

The initiative is expected to address the supply of adults for mentoring, the adaptability of mentoring to such large institutions as juvenile-justice agencies; whether there is a way to characterize the adult role in a successful partnership; what training, services, and costs are part of an effective program; and whether participation changes the young people or the mentors.

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