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Years in the Making with Connected Learning: Mentors

Years in the Making with Connected Learning: Mentors

Written by Christopher Rogers
August 02, 2017

“Brother Mike” Hawkins served as a beacon of light during his time with the Digital Youth Network and the YOUMEDIA space at the Harold Washington Library. In remembering his legacy, colleagues wrote: “Brother Mike brought joy, poetry, and reflection to the YOUmedia Learning Lab community, and pioneered a way of rethinking how libraries, museums, and community centers can be transformative, powerful places of learning not only for youth, but for a community of artists and for public institutions committed to social justice, learning and equity.” The power of mentors has been most frequently connected to the informal learning spaces across a community, yet in this resource, we seek to position mentorship in coordination with classroom educators as a powerful resource in cultivating critical connections and relationships beyond the bells and walls of the school day.

While made specifically for the out of school context, it’s important to recognize that the lessons they offer many lessons for program orientations and projects that seek to expand the classroom. What are the important considerations when people are invited to work in concert with youth to reach learning goals. In this way, the critical ingredients offered by the Mentoring Working Group provide a foundation for exciting possibilities.

The Chicago-based Mentoring Working Group consisted of Tené Gray, Director of Professional Development at the Digital Youth Network (DYN), Elsa Rodriguez, program manager at Hive Chicago, and Bernadette Sánchez, associate professor at DePaul University.

  • Connection. Making connections and building rapport with young people whether it’s in the short- or long-term.

  • Reciprocity. We learn from young people as much as they learn from us. And that reciprocal learning takes place within the context of not only that adult-youth interaction, but youth-to-youth interactions as well.

  • Progressive complexity. This speaks to the creation of learning experiences that scaffold learning and that support the development of knowledge and skills and the application of those knowledge and skills.

  • Empowerment. This is about empowering young people to really understand what they know and to have the confidence to continue to pursue whatever it is they’re passionate about.

Continue to read more at Connected Mentor.

In this 2015 LRNG Cohort project, teachers were able to utilize a number of local partnerships in order to leverage a powerful community-engagement project with their students. Inviting multiple mentor groups to the table (college students, local planning professionals, small business owners, community advocates, journalists, etc.) they were able to create a platform for young people to explore multiple futures while being affirmed within their own home community. This is not to say that this project is perfect, but to honor the intentions that sit at the core. 

“The educators are conscious of leaving the students with real-world skills and a portfolio of work—publication in the LA Times can’t hurt—that will help them when they apply to college or jobs. A younger cohort of ELARA students will take part in a short urban planning program at USC this summer, and the hope is that some will end up attending that school themselves later on. If they do, they will arrive on campus aware that they have the power to shape their communities.” Read more at Educator Innovator.



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