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Mentoring – Origin and Development

Mentoring is a trusting relationship between a young person and an older, more experienced non-parental figure who provides guidance, support, and encouragement to the mentee (DuBois & Karcher, 2005).

The word "Mentor" originated from the name of a character of Greek mythology. Odysseus, Mentor's friend, asked him to take care of his son while he was away fighting in Troy.  Odysseus was found missing after the Trojan War, goddess Athena disguised herself as Mentor to guide Telemachus in his journey of searching his father.  The name "Mentor" was then adopted in English as a term meaning "someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less experience colleague".

In the past few decades, mentoring was rapidly developed in North America and Britain.  It was seen as an effective tool for dealing with some youth-related social issues, e.g. social exclusion.  The governments of the US and the UK also encouraged the development of mentoring programme under which mentors serve as role models of young people to inspire the latters' positive development and help reduce youth delinquency.  In addition, mentoring has been included in some career training and employment programmes for helping disadvantaged youth with potential in life planning.

According to some overseas researches, young people participated in mentorship programmes showed more positive development and were less prone to delinquency.  Mentoring raised young people's self-esteems and self-awareness and improved outcomes across behavioral, social, emotional and academic aspects of youth development. These positive findings proved the value of mentoring and helped raise awareness of such programmes which in turn facilitated further development in this regard.