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When you and your mentee meet for the first time, you will inevitably form first impressions of each other that may or may not be accurate. A youth who has been through one or more traumatic experiences is likely to need more time to get comfortable and feel that she can trust you. This has little to do with your ability to relate to your mentee, but is a result of your mentee’s having been abandoned or seriously disappointed by significant adults in her life. Your mentee's background and culture will also shape her behavior and worldview. As you get to know your mentee over time, encourage her to share about her life experience, background, and culture.

Forming First Impressions

Mentors and mentees often approach the relationship with expectations.

At the beginning of a match, you and your mentee may have preconceived notions of what the relationship will be like. While these expectations aren’t necessarily right or wrong, it’s important to understand that a mentoring relationship can be successful even when it looks or feels different from what you anticipated. Be aware of your vision and expectations for the match, as well as your biases and stereotypes. You’ll need to recognize and manage your assumptions, approaching the relationship with an open mind. Your mentoring program’s training will also help you understand and manage your own assumptions of what to expect from your mentee and from the relationship.

Realistic expectations help provide a stable foundation for a mentoring relationship. When initial expectations are too high or are unrealistic, tension can occur. If you keep your expectations realistic, it is likely to help you and your mentee to bond.

It is also important to be clear about your role as a mentor. A mentor is a friend, a role model, a person to talk to, and another adult who is proud of the child. Mentors should not aim to be a mentor to the young person’s family, a social worker, a doctor, or a “savior.”

Program staff typically help parents and caregivers to be realistic about the role of the mentor during this initial phase of the relationship. Speak with mentoring program staff if at any time you are concerned about the expectations that you, your mentee, or his parents/caregivers have about the relationship.

For more information, see Module 1: "What Is a Mentor?"

Explore your values.

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Mentees’ expectations may be based on their past experiences with adults.

You probably don’t yet know much about your mentee’s experiences with significant adults or how these experiences have shaped his ability to have a trusting relationship with an adult. The key is to respect the newness of the relationship and let it develop naturally. Being overeager for closeness is not a good way to begin a mentoring relationship.

Your mentoring program coordinator may facilitate your first meeting with your mentee or may provide materials that describe how to lay the groundwork for the relationship. The coordinator will also share the program’s rules and expectations for mentors, mentees, and parents/caregivers. In case your program does not provide a mentor/mentee contract, use this sample contract for mentors as a guide for talking with your mentee about expectations for the mentoring relationship and for creating an agreement that you and your mentee can commit to. (The sample contract also offers templates for a mentee and parent mentoring agreement.)

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Youth who have experienced trauma may resist a relationship at first.

Youth with a traumatic past (including those in foster care, those involved in gangs or at risk for gang involvement, and adjudicated youth) may have good reason to be very cautious about trusting and beginning to bond with an adult mentor. Try not to take this personally. They are simply relying on behaviors that have protected them from harm in unsafe situations.

Your patience and commitment will give your mentee time and a reason to begin to trust you and develop a relationship with you. Be patient with yourself as well. Trust doesn't develop overnight. Your mentoring program's staff should be able to provide suggestions for how to navigate this potentially sensitive stage of the relationship. For more information about working with young people who have had challenging life experiences, review Module 2: "Understanding Your Mentee's Background."

During this early stage, you and your mentee are getting to know each other, establishing norms, and beginning to bond. Especially during this early stage of the mentoring relationship, you should focus on being reliable and a good listener, willing to learn about your mentee and her experiences. For more information, visit Module 5: "Communicating with Your Mentee" and Module 6: "Overcoming Common Challenges". Additionally, click the link to download “Identifying Common Experiences and Interests.” This worksheet can help you and your mentee discover the things you have in common and it might help to generate ideas for activities to do together.

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To navigate through this module, use the menu in the left-hand column.
TCAM Partners


The Center for the Advancement of Mentoring Partners

TCAM is a project of Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), in collaboration with Dare Mighty Things, Inc. (DMT); Dr. Roger Jarjoura of Indiana University and founder of Aftercare for the Incarcerated Through Mentoring; and Dennis Talbert, President of Empower Outreach, a faith-based mentoring program for high-risk youth. TCAM is funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).


Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Logo


The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) supports states, local communities, and tribal jurisdictions in their efforts to develop and implement effective programs for juveniles. OJJDP of the U.S. Department of Justice strives to strengthen the juvenile justice system's efforts to protect public safety, hold offenders accountable, and provide services that address the needs of youth and their families. OJJDP plays a vital, leadership role in the field of youth mentoring in the United States.


Education Development Center (EDC) Logo


Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC). EDC is an international, non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing learning and promoting health. EDC works to reduce barriers and disparities with an emphasis on the most vulnerable populations, especially those living in poverty. EDC builds the capacity of practitioners to reduce juvenile delinquency through strategies such as mentoring system-involved youth; restorative justice; dropout prevention; and prevention/early intervention for youth violence, gang involvement, and alcohol and other drug use.


Dare Mighty Things (DMT) Logo


Dare Mighty Things, Inc. (DMT) is a management consulting firm specializing in the development of large-scale programs that impact vulnerable populations. DMT works with national, state, and local organizations to develop large-scale, outcome-based social initiatives for at-risk and high-risk populations.

User Guide


In each section of this lesson, you will be presented with three tiers of information. The following descriptions will help you navigate this self-guided experience.


Media Player: The main media player at the top of the screen is an audio- and video-based overview of the section. Press play to see and hear the overview. You may pause at any time by clicking the pause button on the bottom left of the player. The buttons at the bottom right of the player allow you to control the volume and shift the video to full screen.


On-Screen Text: Below the main media player you will see on-screen text. This includes the detailed information you need to know in order to accomplish the learning objectives for the lesson.


Icons: Within the on-screen text segments, you may see special icons, each representing a different kind of interactivity. Some interactivities include audio. Note: Depending on your browser, the audio may continue to play to the end of the sequence if you close an interactivity while the audio is playing.

Interactivities List



TCAM Online Training Series for Mentors and Mentoring Program Staff Terms and Conditions for Use


The TCAM Online Training Series for Mentors and Mentoring Program Staff was developed by TCAM—The Center for the Advancement of Mentoring. It is designed to be used free of charge by youth mentoring programs funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) of the U.S. Department of Justice and by other mentoring providers and individuals.


The TCAM Online Training Series for Mentors and Mentoring Program Staff includes six online training modules for mentors, which are intended to be used in combination with in-person mentor training provided by mentoring programs, as well as two online modules for mentoring program staff about designing and delivering in-person mentor training. The content of the training series is informed by mentoring research and best practice, the expertise of the TCAM Leadership Team, and TCAM’s experience providing technical assistance to OJJDP mentoring grantees. Each module is designed to be completed in approximately 30 minutes, and individuals may opt to complete one or more of the eight modules.


Technical Requirements
Viewing and Downloading PDFs

Some of the materials in this training series are posted in PDF format. PDF, which stands for Portable Document Format, is a popular format for distributing documents on the Internet. To view and print PDF documents, you need the free Acrobat Reader software. If you do not have Acrobat Reader installed on your computer, go to the Adobe website and follow the directions to download and install the software.


Multimedia Software

The training series contains some links to multimedia resources. To be able to experience the full multimedia effects, you may need the following free software download:


Enabling Javascript

To use the training series, JavaScript must be enabled in your computer’s browser. For Internet Explorer, go to Tools > Internet Options and select the “Security” tab; click “Custom Level” near the bottom; scroll down to “Scripting” and make sure “Enable” is selected under “Active scripting." For Firefox, go to Tools > Options > Content > Enable JavaScript (checked). For Safari, go to Preferences > Click Security > Check Enable JavaScript. Close the window and click Reload.


Link Check

All of the links in this training series are checked regularly; however, the Web is an ever-changing medium, and you may find that some of the links don’t work. If you find a broken link, please report it.  Note that if you find a broken within a reading or resource on another website, only the owners of that website can repair the link.


Course Accessibility

This training series contains accessibility features to accommodate the needs of individuals with disabilities. The developers of the training series aim to achieve W3C WAI Priority 2 level. If you have difficulty using any aspect of this training series, please contact the Technical Facilitator at or 617-618-2334.


Contact Information

This training series was created by The Center for the Advancement of Mentoring, operated by Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), in the performance of Grant No. 2009-JU-FX-K001 awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.


For content-related questions about the training series:

TCAM Project Director (; 617-618-2346)


For technical questions about the training series:

Technical Facilitator  (; 617-618-2334)



Skillbuilding Exercises


  • Explore your values.

    Explore your values.

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