National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Families

Bright Idea: Reinventing the Wheel at the Buckeye Mentoring Hub

Photograph of a wheel.

Two questions keep the leaders of every mentoring program up at night. How do we recruit bright, enthusiastic, committed mentors? And once we recruit them, how do we keep them engaged?

For a group of concerned child and youth-serving organizations in Central Ohio, the answer was clear: make the mentoring experience as easy as possible for those willing to give their time.

Over the last 10 years, the 40+ organizations that make up the Buckeye Mentoring Hub have streamlined the recruiting, screening, training, and matching process region-wide. The result: 300 students from Ohio State University in Columbus were matched with children from a variety of local area schools.

“Without the Hub, our collaborators wouldn't have access to our extensive free mentor training, free background checks and free streamlined recruitment that we provide,” says Stephanie Hughes of the Mentoring Center of Central Ohio, who oversees the daily operations of the Hub. “Mentoring programs need these services in order to serve kids and develop successful programs for mentees.”

Every fall, Hub representatives show up at Ohio State’s freshman community involvement fair to draw in new mentor recruits from the campus’s nearly 50,000 students. College students have busy and inflexible schedules, so the Hub schedules trainings at multiple times, offers more than one avenue for volunteering and lets students volunteer during winter and summer school sessions.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio is then responsible for matching mentors with children from a number of different local programs, including the Godman Guild, the university’s College of Education and Human Ecology, the Columbus City Schools, and Youth Build Columbus. That way, OSU students can choose whether they want to mentor a young person who has a disability, is of a certain age, or goes to school near where the mentor lives. BBBS also ensures that the Hub adheres to the most effective mentoring practices in making matches and nurturing them.

Once matched, mentors and mentees get together on campus or at the Hub’s participating schools and community organizations, relieving students of the responsibility of choosing a place to meet their mentees. And Hughes follows up with every mentor and mentee to make sure no participants “fall through the cracks.”

Another key to the Hub’s success is working closely with university officials, says Marilyn Pritchett, executive director of the Mentoring Center. Going through the proper channels ensures that Pritchett and her staff are able to entice students with community service hours and extra class credit. The hub also has allies at the student union’s Center for Student Leadership and Service. These administrators post information about the Hub’s mentoring programs and training sessions online, keep Hughes apprised of student fairs and other events, attend hub meetings and advise students about volunteer opportunities.