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Cross-age Peer Mentoring to Enhance Resilience among Low-income Urban Youth Living in High Violence Chicago Communities

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2019
217 pages

This mixed-methods study evaluated the effectiveness of community-based cross-age mentoring in reducing adverse outcomes of violence exposure/engagement and promoting positive development among African-American and Latinx youth from multiple sites serving four low-income, high-violence urban neighborhoods, using youth mentors from the same high-risk environment.


Youth mentors have named the program “Saving Lives, Inspiring Youth” (SLIY). In collaboration with several community organizations, a prospective approach was used to monitor cross-age mentors and mentees for up to 1 year of mentoring. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used to examine any changes in relevant constructs and to understand program impact. SLIY involved mentoring sessions of 1 hour each week, with 1 hour of debriefing for mentors after each mentoring session. A total of 228 mentors were recruited from local agencies and high schools located in the same high-risk environments as the mentees. They were trained in the goals and techniques of mentoring. A total of 302 mentees were recruited to attend weekly mentoring sessions for up to 1 year. A subsample of mentors and mentees completed data collection before and after a period of 9-12 months. Among the preliminary findings of this study is that program elements which address relationship variables such as communication skills, healthy self-expression, empathy, and healthy conflict resolution are the most vital curriculum elements for ensuring a positive impact on mentors and mentees. Also. staff mentoring of the mentors was essential to program effectiveness. This should include dealing with vicarious trauma. Findings also indicate that when working with low-income youth as mentors, pay for time spent in the program is essential to the success of high school engagement, with minimum wage as the floor. 26 tables, 7 figures, and 250 references

Date Published: September 1, 2019