Mentorship and Gifted Youth

January 8, 2013

By Kate Williams

Kate was IEA’s Apprenticeship Program Coordinator. Prior to moving to the Los Angeles area, Kate worked as an educator for over five years in Washington, D.C.

What is mentoring?

The role of the Mentor is recognized in many parts of society as well as many cultures throughout time. One of the earliest known mentorships was from Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey. The Mentor in The Odyssey is described as a wise friend that helps to guide Telemachus in discovering his inheritance. According to Dr. Susan Miller and Dr. Anne Frederickson of The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,

Mentor did not guide Telemachus to discover the riches of plundered Troy, rather he guided the young man’s yearning for his father and heritage. Perhaps the same can be applied to mentorship, which guides us to understand the inheritance within us and our full potential in our chosen profession.

Mentors today are still guiding our youth, young professionals and protégés in the same manner. Without Mentors to guide us along the path of possibility, we wouldn’t know our true potential.

What does mentoring look like today?

Industrial Design Mentor Stan Kong teaches Apprentices about design each summer.
Industrial Design Mentor Stan Kong teaches Apprentices about design each summer.

True mentoring today is not just an activity; it develops a lasting relationship between the Mentor and Apprentice that can be a highly meaningful experience.

Effective Mentors are trusted counselors that support their Apprentices’ ideas while giving constructive feedback so the protégés may grow. Mentors often include community volunteers, researchers, educators, university students and career professionals. Creating a worthwhile experience for everyone involved is often an intentional process and requires research and interest surveys. Structured instrumental mentorships often involve a third party to pair Apprentices with Mentors for a designated time period. This is how our Apprenticeship Program works. The majority of mentorships in education use this method because younger students often do not have the opportunity to create a spontaneous relationship with working professionals in their community (Clasen1987).

College Counselor Kate Duey works with Apprentices on the college application process.
College Counselor Kate Duey works with Apprentices on the college application process.

There are two types of mentoring in today’s society that support this idea: Informal Mentoring and Structured Mentoring. Informal Mentoring is a casual relationship, typically between a more experienced senior and a less experienced junior that provides long-term council. Structured Mentoring is designed to create an entire culture that reflects the proactive development within the company or organization. Structured Mentors are matched with their protégés to offer council as they pursue specific goals or topics. Here at IEA, we incorporate both types of mentoring in our high school Apprenticeship Program by offering our youth experiential learning opportunities and guidance on career choices.

The length of time in which a structured mentorship takes place depends on the goals of the mentorship and the age of the Apprentice. Elementary students often seek relationships by semester, while high school students need long-term support with strong academic focus. Regardless of the duration, the most important factor in establishing a mentorship is the commitment among all parties involved.

Why do gifted youth need mentoring? And how can you help?

Gifted students crave depth and challenge in their area of interest, which they often do not receive in the traditional classroom. They don’t want to just memorize facts; they want to see the subject come to life. Mentoring allows gifted students the opportunity to see practical applications in their field of interest and gives them the depth and challenge they need.

In addition to creating academic challenge not present in the traditional classroom, Mentors can provide gifted students with career guidance. Developing a connection with a Mentor can give gifted students the self-confidence they need to pursue the career of their dreams, and exposure to new ideas while creating real-world connections also supports occupational direction.

The Mentor-Apprentice relationship is extremely beneficial to both participants, and if prepared carefully, can make a lasting difference in their lives. Mentorship inspires students to reach new academic heights while building a community centered in emerging talent. At IEA, we have the opportunity to guide Apprentices and acknowledge and support the true capabilities of our gifted youth. By becoming a Mentor, you can, too.

We are currently accepting applications as well as securing Mentors for our 2014 Apprenticeship Program. If you are interested in learning more, please visit the Apprenticeship page of our website or contact us at Apprenticeship@educationaladvancement.org.

How has mentorship affected your educational or career path? Please share with us in the comment section below!

  • References
    Clasen, D., and M. Hanson. Double Mentoring: A Process for Facilitating Mentorships for Gifted Students. Vol. 10. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print. Roeper Review.
  • Colangelo, Nicholas, and Gary A. Davis. “Mentoring: A Time-Honored Option for Education of the Gifted and Talented.” Handbook of Gifted Education. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1991. N. pag. Print.
  • “Experience Pays: Mentoring.” Http://www.experiencepays.qld.gov. Queensland Government, n.d. Web. 21 Dec. 2012. <http://www.experiencepays.qld.gov.au/pdf/eii/epas/retain/mentoring.pdf>.
  • “Guidance for Mentors.” Http://www.mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk. Medical Research Counsel, n.d. Web. 21 Dec. 2012. <http://www.mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk/equality/MRC%20Guidance%20for%20Mentors.pdf>.
  • Miller, Susan M., M.D., and Anne Frederickson, M.D. “Mentorship Matters: Mentor and Telemachus.” Mentorship Matters: Mentor and Telemachus | American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/developmentor/mentorship_matters_mentor_and_telemachus, n.d. Web. 21 Dec. 2012. <http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/developmentor/mentorship_matters_mentor_and_telemachus>.
  • VanTassel-Baska, Joyce. Serving Gifted Learners beyond the Traditional Classroom: A Guide to Alternative Programs and Services. Waco, TX: Prufrock, 2007. Print.
  • Wickman, Floyd, and Terri Sjodin. Mentoring. N.p.: McGraw Hill, 1997. Print.