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The Power of Lived Experience in Youth Mentoring: Creating Impactful Connections

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

Young black males listening to a mentor

In the world of youth mentoring, there's a valuable asset that often goes unnoticed but has the potential to make a profound difference – individuals with Lived Experience (LEE). These individuals have walked paths that many at-risk youth currently find themselves on, and harnessing their unique perspectives can be transformative in delivering effective mentoring programs. While sharing parts of their personal experiences can undoubtedly be beneficial, it's essential to recognize that LEEs bring much more to the table than just their stories.

Imagine embarking on a challenging video game journey for the first time. Now picture having a seasoned player by your side, guiding you through the obstacles and pitfalls you'd otherwise stumble upon. LEEs are like those experienced players, providing invaluable insight and support to navigate the complexities of life's game.

Youth and Mentor having a conversation

Here are some key points to remember when working with LEEs:

Relatability: LEEs can connect with the youth you're serving in ways others might struggle to. Their personal experiences create a bridge of understanding and empathy.

Authentic Messaging: Having quality LEEs on your team ensures that the program's message is delivered in a believable and relatable manner. Their authenticity is a powerful tool.

Experts, Not Charity Cases: LEEs are experts in their own right. Their expertise should be esteemed on par with someone holding a university degree. They bring a unique perspective and skillset to the program.

Professional Growth: Recognize that LEEs can grow both personally and professionally through their involvement in your program. Many of them have navigated systems and gained valuable skills beyond their personal experiences.

Diverse Perspectives: LEEs come from diverse backgrounds, and their presence can help fill gaps in your program's understanding of different life trajectories, cultures, and experiences.

Career Development: Consider how this opportunity can benefit LEEs beyond your program. Help them see the professional growth potential, and you'll inspire their commitment and dedication.

Two young women having a conversation on the street

Incorporating LEEs into your youth mentoring program isn't just about sharing stories; it's about recognizing them as assets with the power to change lives. By embracing their expertise and diverse perspectives, you're not only enriching your program but also empowering these individuals to thrive both personally and professionally.

Let's harness the incredible potential of Lived Experience to mentor our youth and foster a brighter future.

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The Walk With Me Impact curriculum goes beyond program instruction; it also provides guidance on how organizations can effectively recruit, leverage, and cultivate the ideal Lived Experience Mentors and staff for their initiatives. Discover more about the WWMI curriculum and gain valuable insights by registering for one of the three upcoming information sessions.


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