Mentoring for the Digital Age

COVID-19 Response: Free 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, a free online tool 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 in the near-term to keep your mentees and mentors connected, please CLICK HERE to complete an online interest form.

The Virtual Mentoring Portal is a safe and monitored mentoring platform for mentors and mentees who are 13 and older to continue their relationships while they may be separated due to COVID-19. The Virtual Mentoring Portal provides unstructured (internal, monitored email) or structured (research-back curriculum) communications and provides mentoring programs with virtual mentoring access for existing mentees and their mentors. 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.

To ensure physical distancing does not mean social disconnection, two leading experts on mentoring are launching the Virtual Mentoring Portal. 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.

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 have joined forces to develop this free tool. The Virtual Mentoring Portal provides unstructured (internal, monitored email) or structured (research-back curriculum) communications and will provide 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.

In order to provide this offering quickly, the VMP leverages iCouldBe’s existing program and will enable participating organizations to connect their mentors and mentees online on a safe and monitored mentoring platform. Going forward the platform may be enhanced with new features (such as video conferencing) to better meet the needs of in-person mentoring programs.

Interested organizations will be using 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.

Please note that prior to this offering, the iCouldBe program was previously typically delivered by teachers in classrooms once per week for a full academic year. The same platform is now being offered as a free solution to help other organizations, but it still includes many of the features meant for the regular program.

Participating programs will have the option of registering their mentees and mentors to participate on the platform and can 1) use e-mail communications only, or 2) participate in the full curricular activities as well as using email 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 and MENTOR 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. To kick off this initiative, iCouldBe and MENTOR will host live group trainings that cover how mentees will access 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.

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

The VMP is being offered for free to provide a safe and monitored mentoring platform for mentors and mentees to continue their relationships while they may be separated due to COVID-19. Based upon external funding the program will be available initially to a limited number of participants through the end of June, 2020. As additional funding becomes available more participants can be accommodated and the features available on the platform may be expanded to include video and more.

While there are no direct costs to 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 for nonprofit organizations designated as a 501(c)3 charitable organizations under the Internal Revenue Code of the United States.

  • One-to-one mentoring.
  • Mentors have completed 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/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.

We intend to provide this 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-serve 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.

Based upon external funding the program will be available initially to a limited number of participants through the end of June, 2020 (and through the summer if needed). Because of that, 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. If you’re interested in this for your organization, please go ahead and complete the survey at your earliest convenience and iCouldBe will follow up with the match spreadsheets and a signed Partnership agreement.

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 receiving your documents). It will take one to two business days to set up your cohorts and then your mentors and mentees can register. 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 which will take a few more days and may depend upon the number of programs that may be ahead of you in the queue at the time.

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.

For programs interested in using the full curriculum, mentees and mentors can 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.

Based upon external funding the program will be available initially to a limited number of participants for free through the end of June 2020 (and through the summer if needed). As additional funding becomes available more participants can be accommodated, and we can consider implementation beyond the summer. Funding for this initiative is focused on the current crisis for the current school year / program year. We will need to identify new funding to address partnerships for the next school year, which we are just beginning now.