Will I be Able to Understand My Mentee? Examining the Potential Risk of the Dominant Culture Mentoring Marginalized Youth


  • Jennifer Lindwall Portland State University




Most people would agree they want to live in a world where every child has what he or she needs to thrive and grow into a healthy and productive adult. It is estimated that 5,000 mentoring programs serve 3,000,000 youth in the United States alone (DuBois, Portillo, Rhodes, Silverthorn, & Valentine, 2011).  In many of these programs, a majority of the mentors are matched with a mentee who comes from a culture and community they know very little about. Many of the youth development programs that were founded and implemented by people of the perceived dominant culture represent their values and cultural experience. To look more deeply into this, my primary research included seven one-on-one interviews with experienced youth workers, most who currently work at a community or site-based mentoring program.  This article is a summary of their responses and reflections on the potential risks invovled in matching across culture and considers how we might work together to mitigate these risks for the youth we serve.


Author Biography

Jennifer Lindwall, Portland State University

Graduate Student in Applied Developmental Psychology


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