Research from IDEO, CompTIA, Creating IT Futures and other sources repeatedly emphasizes that role models are one of the most significant and common sources of inspiration and guidance for kids. This is why creating a mentorship program is at the center of NextUp. Connecting mentors with students in the context of shared interests creates trust, which is a necessary foundation for the supportive guidance needed when students explore future opportunities.
The mentor program will develop over time, but the following outlines our approach to this aspect of NextUp:
- Recruit Passion-Driven Mentors: We will recruit mentors primarily from CompTIA’s network of members and certified IT professionals. It also will be an option for partner companies that have technology staff who are interested in volunteering.
- Provide Structured Engagements: We want to avoid putting our mentors in the position of having to figure out how to interact with their mentees. Structured activities give mentors and mentees the opportunity to connect over a defined and shared goal. This helps manage expectations of both mentors and students and can break the ice during initial interactions. Working together toward that shared goal is a great way for mentors to get to know their students, build trust, and explore how to best advise and support them.
- Pursue Long-Term Connections: While there may be options for mentors to participate in one-day activities, we primarily focus on programs that meet at least weekly over several months. Building relationships and trust takes time, but both are essential to set the stage for guiding students toward tech careers.
- Emphasize Soft Influence: This goes back to the foundational principle of honoring youth interests. Mentors should not be hard selling tech careers to their mentees. They need to build trust and mutual respect first. This requires asking questions, listening, and gauging interactions based on how the mentee responds and interacts.
Recruitment Goals & Roles
Our yearly recruitment targets largely depend on the number of programs that are planned and the volunteer support needed for each. We work closely with our partners to determine how many volunteers are need for different types of activities.
Our long-term goal is to recruit 500 mentors over the next four years. Our yearly recruitment targets are as follows:
- Year 1: 50 new mentors
- Year 2: 100 new mentors
- Year 3: 150 new mentors
- Year 4: 200 new mentors
We have three main mentor roles for which we’re recruiting volunteers:
NextUp Helper Mentor:
This role is a good way to introduce a person who is interested in becoming a mentor but may be hesitant due to lack of experience or availability for long-term commitment. A tech professional may volunteer as a floating helper for at short-term program (e.g., a one-day TechGirlz’ TechShop) led by a trained educator. They could wander the room during the program and act as a helping hand for groups or individuals working on tasks, games, or small projects.
NextUp Facilitator Mentor:
This role is for a person who is willing and able to make a long-term commitment to an individual student or small group of students over a period of several months. They would be committed to meet weekly and may help with activities such as building a robot for competition or devising a science fair experiment.
NextUp ambassadors go the extra mile beyond mentoring. They become advocates for NextUp. They may become program instructors, serve as content experts for curriculum development, help promote different programs or events, or recruit more mentors from within their company or professional and social networks.