Group Mentoring by Video Chat during Pandemic

In these vulnerable and unpredictable times, Summer Search remains committed to supporting our young people and their families. Our staff is finding innovative ways to continue to provide mentoring — offering a much-needed safe space for our students to process, explore, and relate to what is happening in the world.

While physical distancing restricts in-school support and place-based service providers, our regular mentoring continues — weekly conversations between a student and a professional staff mentor. Though, that process has certainly looked a bit different these last few weeks.

For some of our mentors, this has meant holding space via phone or video chat for young people to voice their concerns and help navigate the new realities of the global pandemic.

For others, this has looked like sharing resources from the CDC, local agencies, and other aid organizations as our students’ families work to recover lost wages and access legal support — particularly for those who are undocumented.

For high school seniors specifically, our post-secondary advisors are focusing conversations to support students as they process a lot of unknowns around college acceptance, financial aid, campus visits, and standardized test cancellations.

Our post-secondary teams are working hard to make contingency plans and stay in contact with our university and college partners to help mitigate worry and come up with virtual alternatives to campus visits.

Normally, group mentoring sessions are in-person conversations with six to 12 students and a mentor facilitator. Now, these meetings have moved to video chats, prioritizing the safety and well-being of our community. Despite the technical and conversational hurdles that come with video conferencing, our students and mentors are staying optimistic and open minded.

Bay Area mentor Anika Gillespie-Jones described her first group mentoring video session as “Overwhelming, yet pleasant! My students made it very easy for me to conduct the modified curriculum and throughout the whole session we all laughed.”

As Anika mentions, we have adjusted our group mentoring curriculum to focus on holding space for Summer Searchers to come together to process their emotions and reactions to the pandemic. Despite experiencing a wide range of feelings — boredom, loneliness, insecurity, uncertainty, and anxiety — our students remain reflective and resilient. They’re not only providing support for each other during the group sessions, they’re also taking the lead and bringing the collective learnings from their group back to their own families and communities.

“Conducting virtual group sessions are challenging but the students are what makes doing them worth it,” Anika says. “These sessions provide (students) a safe place as a group to come together still throughout this hard time that we are all facing. I cannot wait ’til the second one!”

So many individuals in our local communities are facing significant emotional, psychological, and financial impacts. Our mentoring is critical to our young people to help them process and deal with the realities of this current crisis while helping them develop resilience and agency to help them now and for what is coming in the long-term.