Sometimes we think of mentors narrowly as those who sign up through a formal program to spend time with a young person. In addition to these “formal” mentors, informal or everyday mentors can be any trustworthy adult who offers support, guidance and encouragement to help young people overcome challenges and become their best selves.

What Do Mentors Do That Matter?

What specific actions can adults take in their relationships with young people that help students learn, grow, and thrive? Search Institute’s newest research identifies five essential actions that lay the foundation for a powerful mentoring relationship:

1. Express Care

Students value relationships with adults who show they genuinely like them and want the best for them. These relationships help young people know they really matter.

2. Challenge Growth 

Students value relationships with adults who insist that they do their best to learn, grow and improve.

3. Provide Support

Students value relationships with adults who offer tangible, appropriate feedback and guidance in completing tasks and achieving goals — without taking over and doing it for them.

4. Share Power

Students value relationships with adults in which they feel their voices are heard and they share in making decisions that affect them. This helps students develop self-confidence and self-direction.

5. Expand Possibility

Students value trustworthy adults who help them broaden their horizons and connect them to opportunities for learning, growth and discovery.

The preceding text is an adaptation of research done by the Search Institute and an excerpt from the January Renaissance Kit: Mentors That Matter.

This year, Jostens is partnering with Search Institute, an organization dedicated to researching and understanding what kids need in order to succeed. Over the past 25 years, Search Institute has studied the strengths and challenges in the lives of more than five million middle and high school youth across the country and around the world. Like Jostens Renaissance, Search Institute focuses on young people’s strengths, rather than emphasizing their problems or deficiencies. Visit to learn more.

 Below you will find the Mentors that Matter guide. Click the image to download a PDF with class activities, statistics and research around mentorship.




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