Mentoring for the Digital Age

COVID-19 Response: Virtual Mentoring Portal

To ensure physical distancing does not mean social disconnection, iCouldBe, one of the leading experts on virtual mentoring in the U.S. since 2000, and MENTOR, the nation’s field and movement leader for youth mentoring for the last 30 years, joined forces to launch the Virtual Mentoring Portal, an online program for mentors and mentees to stay connected during this time of physical distancing.

If your mentoring program has been impacted by COVID-19 and you are interested in using a safe and monitored platform to keep your existing or new mentees and mentors connected, please email kate@icouldbe.org

The Virtual Mentoring Portal is a safe and monitored mentoring platform for mentors and mentees who are 13 and older to continue or establish their relationships while they may be separated due to COVID-19 and to form new mentoring relationships. The Virtual Mentoring Portal provides structured evidence-based curriculum, communications, email and chat functionality, and provides mentoring programs with virtual mentoring access for existing mentees and their mentors and for new mentoring matches. The platform is constructed with respect to best practices, safety, and data privacy. To learn more, please watch the overview video and read a detailed FAQ section below.

Watch an informational webinar below

FAQ

Click each question to expand and read the response.

The Virtual Mentoring Portal (also referred to as VMP) is a safe and monitored mentoring platform for mentors and mentees to continue their relationships while they may be separated due to COVID-19 and to form new mentoring relationships.

The VMP provides structured (research-back curriculum) communications, email and chat functionality and provides mentoring programs with virtual mentoring access for existing mentees who are at least 13 years old, and their mentors. The platform has been constructed with respect to best practices, safety, and data privacy.

The VMP leverages iCouldBe’s existing program and enables participating organizations to connect their mentors and mentees online on a safe and monitored mentoring platform. The platform was recently enhanced with a new chat feature to better meet the needs of in-person mentoring programs.

Interested organizations will use an existing platform developed by iCouldBe to support teens with a structured evidence-backed curriculum focused on academic success, post-secondary education, work experience, exploring future careers and developing webs of support.

Partner organizations will have the option of registering their mentees and mentors on the platform to participate in the full curricular activities as well as using email, live text chat and other functionality on the platform.

Participating program staff will have access to an administrative portal that will enable them to manage the program and review mentee and mentor participation and communication on the VMP.

iCouldBe will act in a ‘train-the-trainer’ role and will train program representatives who in turn will train the mentors and mentees. Participating organization staff will support and monitor the mentee and mentor participants. Trainings cover how mentees access the program and how program staff can monitor participation from their dedicated admin portal. The trainings will be recorded and will be available in the admin portal for program staff to view as a refresher.

A mentee orientation is available for program staff to deliver to mentees before they register on the VMP. Mentor training videos and mentee training videos are also available within the platform.

The VMP was launched in the spring of 2020 and thanks to initial funding from AT&T the VMP was available for free to a few dozen mentoring organizations through the summer of 2020. Based on our conversations with hundreds of mentoring programs we understand that a virtual mentoring option is needed for many programs going forward. iCouldBe is working hard to secure additional funding to support our friends across the mentoring community to meet this need.

At this time, we have raised enough funds to be able to offer the iCouldBe VMP to participating organizations for a minimum of $3,000 for up to 25 mentee-mentor matches and $125 for each additional mentee-mentor match (a savings of $375 per match). We can only provide this opportunity to a limited number of matches. If you are interested in using the VMP, please CLICK HERE to complete an online interest form.

To keep costs low for participating programs, program staff must be available to monitor and manage the program directly using the administrative portal. In addition, each program must ensure that mentees have devices and internet access to use the program and should ensure that additional data fees are not charged to mentees using mobile devices.

The VMP offering is available to nonprofit organizations designated as 501(c)3 charitable organizations under the Internal Revenue Code of the United States, as well as public schools and government organizations. Participating programs must meet the following requirements:

  • One-to-one mentoring.
  • Mentors have completed, and successfully passed, background checks.
  • Mentees using the portal are 13 years or older.
  • Mentees have or will soon have internet access and web-enabled devices.
  • The organization has staff and vetted volunteers to support and monitor participation.

Yes, to ensure youth 12 and under also have access to virtual mentoring in this moment, MENTOR has partnered with CricketTogether to expand the portal. CricketTogether provides a convenient, rewarding, and impactful approach to eMentoring: connecting mentors and students virtually across the U.S. in order to overcome geographic and socio-economic barriers. CLICK HERE to learn more.

Following are the general steps in the process. Based on the level of demand and interest we will work to accommodate as many participant programs as possible but cannot make any guarantees.

  • Complete the Participation Interest Form
  • iCouldBe will notify you if we have questions.
  • Review and sign the Partnership Agreement.
  • Complete and return a spreadsheet with mentee and mentor match information.
  • Participate in a training session.
  • Have mentors register on the VMP.
  • Have mentees register on the VMP.

Yes. We intend to provide this discounted service to all organizations in need of a virtual mentoring alternative; however, our capacity is dependent on ongoing external fundraising efforts and we cannot guarantee that we can meet the target number of mentees and mentors served. We will serve organizations (that meet the requirements) on a first-come, first-served basis and will make our best effort to meet the goals of all organizations including numbers of mentees and mentors served and target start dates. Other options are available, but the discounted rate is only for a limited number of matches.

External funding the program will determine the number of free or reduced-cost participants going forward. We are using a Participation Interest Form, signed agreements and completed mentor-mentee match spreadsheets to fill slots on a first come, first served basis.

To be approved, iCouldBe needs your signed Agreement, the mentee and mentor match spreadsheet and for your staff to attend the training (dates to be sent to you upon iCouldBe after receiving your documents). iCouldBe will set up your cohorts and then you will be responsible for managing the process of getting your mentees and mentors registered. Once you confirm that is completed, iCouldBe will use your list to match the mentees and mentors.

iCouldBe merges mentoring best-practices and technology to disrupt systematic inequities in public school education for students from low-income backgrounds. We address a root cause of the achievement gap: lack of access to relationships and webs of support. iCouldBe believes that broad networks of support will open new opportunities for academic and career success.

Mentees and mentors engage in weekly online activities that strengthen and expand real-life connections to help mentees develop self-knowledge, map academic and career paths and identify tactical steps to achieve goals. The interactive activities are grouped into themed “quests” to achieve outcomes in social emotional development, self-efficacy, self-direction, curiosity, problem-solving, college and career aspirational development. Mentees lead discussions with their mentors on themes including academic success, preparing for graduation, gaining work experience, preparing for future education and networking. Mentors provide feedback and support their mentees’ efforts to: 1) define personal challenges or goals; 2) determine potential solutions and strategies; 3) identify networks of people who can help and how they can help; and 4) engage people in their network in the solution.

Every activity begins with a “Check This Out” section with the main content and ends with “Start the Conversation” prompts that mentees and mentors discuss, research, and brainstorm each session. Students may complete approximately two activities per session while working asynchronously with their mentors. The back-end administrative management system enables real-time access for teachers and program coordinators and ongoing weekly support calls by iCouldBe staff.

While there are many resources for online communications, the Virtual Mentoring Portal incorporates privacy policies and processes that were developed to meet federal and state student privacy laws. iCouldBe will not sell, share, or rent any personally identifiable information entered by any users, or collected through their use of the iCouldBe e-mentoring platform, to third-parties for their own marketing or commercial purposes.

iCouldBe embeds real-time privacy and safety filters across the platform. To ensure mentee and mentor safety, automated filter alerts are designed to notify staff and partners so they can take action and respond accordingly.

The Virtual Mentoring Portal includes safety and privacy e-mentoring best-practices that other non-mentoring services may not include.

Video chatting cannot be monitored or filtered so it is not currently available on the Virtual Mentoring Portal. To better support in-person programs during this time, iCouldBe recently launched a new dynamic text chat section that allows mentees and mentors to communicate in real-time on the portal, with the same monitoring and filtering applied to all communications.

Group mentoring is not currently available on the Virtual Mentoring Portal and we don’t have near-term plans to add this feature. We are happy to discuss a longer-term strategy with you to meet group mentoring program needs.