Mentor Role and Expectations

The Mentor Position is Critical to the Success of the YOUth Have a Voice: Youth in Governance and Civic Engagement Program

The role of the mentor is a liaison between the 4-H youth participants and the target audiences for their project. More specifically, the mentors ensure that the youth selected to serve receive the full benefits from participation, including1:

Youth Voice and Representation

Mentors should help youth find their own voice by providing information and resources so the youth can have meaningful input into discussions and decisions. Youth should be encouraged to share their ideas and opinions.  This may mean from time to time that youth may disagree with their mentor’s opinions.

Community Improvement

Mentors should advocate for youth committee members to make sure that their ideas are heard. Youth could have a lot to add but sometimes they may need to be asked.

Positive Youth Development

Mentors should keep in mind that this is a learning experience for young people. Mentors should reinforce skill development among youth members by helping youth improve their communication skills, organization skills, and decision-making skills. Mentors should communicate with youth on a regular basis and follow up with youth members who are not fulfilling their responsibilities.

Civic Development

Mentors should provide basic information about the boards, the government, and committee processes (i.e. Roberts Rules of Order, committee protocol, etc.) when relevant to the mentees’ project. In addition, mentors should encourage youth members to be responsible representatives and share information with other young people. Our civil society is strengthened when youth become informed and thoughtful citizens!

Respect Youth in Government Members

Keep the relationship professional and courteous, while striving to build a personal connection.

Connecting With Your Mentee

  • As a mentor, you will want to build a positive youth-adult partnership with your mentee. It is important for your mentee to feel welcomed and have a sense of belonging to the group of adults they are working with. As a board member, they are more likely to contribute during meetings when they feel emotionally safe and accepted by other members.
  • Attend the YOUth Have a Voice! orientation and training. It is a positive way to begin your youth-adult partnership. Icebreaker activities are included in the orientation. These activities provide an opportunity for participants to connect on a personal level in order to begin building the mentor/mentee relationship.

When You First Meet Your Mentee:

  • Ask your mentee why they wanted to be in the pathway they chose for this program. Additionally,  ask your mentee what their goals are for their term of service. Discuss how you can help them reach their goals. Share what your goals are for your mentee’s term.
  • Give your email address and/or phone number to your mentee. Assure them that they can contact you with any questions, comments, or concerns they have regarding their responsibilities during the project.
  • If the 4-H youth is a board representative, review the contents of a meeting packet and answer any questions the youth representative has about information contained in meeting packets and/or meeting procedures.

During the Project and Program Year:

  • Meet with your mentee before and/or after each meeting to answer questions, share information regarding committee responsibilities, and provide clarification as needed.  Connecting before and/or after meetings is an effective way to build the youth-adult partnership throughout the youth representative’s term of service.
  • Sit next to your mentee whenever possible. This will make them feel welcome. In addition,  you are easily available to answer any questions they may have regarding meeting content and/or procedures.

Communicating With Your Mentee

  • Develop a positive relationship with your mentee. A positive youth-adult partnership enables both of you to grow. In addition, your mentee will be more open to your guidance, advice,  praise, and support.
  • Nurture your mentee’s strengths through praise and practice. Praise and reinforce when you see them excel during a meeting or share their opinion with the committee.
  • Show your appreciation for your mentee’s skills, abilities, and qualities. Encourage them to share their opinions and ideas with target audiences.
  • Engage in positive communication.
  • Be clear and specific with your comments, explanations, and expectations.
  • Recognize that each individual sees things from a different perspective.
  • Be open and honest about your feelings.
  • Accept your mentee’s feelings about topics and try to understand them.


  • In order to keep youth safe and to protect mentors, the following best practices will be followed when serving as a mentor:
  • All mentor applicants inform their supervisor and Chair of the board they serve (if applicable) of their interest in serving.
  • Mentors always meet 4-H Youth in open, public places.
  • When possible, at least three people are present when meeting face-to-face with 4-H Youth.
  • Mentors do not personally transport 4-H Youth.
  • Mentees should not be exposed to illicit drugs, alcohol, or controlled substances.

Ways to Engage and Support Mentees

Mentors for Youth Board Members:

  • Introduce your mentee to all board members at the first meeting. Share a bit of personal information about your mentee such as school, interests, and why they decided to join the 4-H Youth Have a Voice! program, and their goals for the term with the committee. Have committee members share information about themselves with the youth representatives.
  • Ask if the youth can be the leader of a required task for board meetings.  Examples could be reading the mission statement at the beginning of the meeting or leading the pledge of allegiance.  Also, see if the chair of the board or committee provides a time during the meeting for youth to be afforded the opportunity to speak. Examples could be a scheduled time in the agenda for the chair to ask the youth if there are any comments or questions they would like to ask.
  • Providing a welcoming and respectful environment is critical for youth to add their insight and perspective (i.e. for the first two to three meetings all committee members and staff introduce themselves).
  • Follow the additional guidance provided during the mentor training.

Mentors for Policy Leaders:

  • Provide the youth with deadlines for comment periods.
  • Before the mentee meets with a public official, make them aware of appropriate dress and any protocols or etiquette for arriving, meeting, or departing the meeting.  Also, please make them aware of any security protocols that they may need to follow, such as providing identification, entering their name onto a ledger, passing through a metal detector, or being escorted to a meeting room.
  • Follow the additional guidance provided during the mentor training.

Mentors for Public Service Leaders:

  • Help introduce 4-H youth to other adults or community leaders who will help them complete tasks to meet their goals.
  • Recognize the benchmarks, timelines, and progress made in their project management plans.
  • Follow the additional guidance provided during the mentor training.

1 Adapted from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Youth in Governance Racine County Handbook, 2022-2023

Updated June 15, 2023