How to Kick Start Your Mentor Program and Stop the Bullies

Kick Start Your Mentor Program to Stop the Bullying
by Paula McCoach, School Counselor

Whining about bullying and how rotten the bullies were and
the poor students that they bullied used to be one of my
regular activities. "We have to do something to help these
kids" both the bullies and their victims," I would whine.
But for years, I just talked to these kids and sent them on
their way. After I got sick and tired of being sick and
tired of talking about this - I did do something! I
started a mentor program for these students!

Behavior referrals, grades, social problems, and poor
achievement were our starting criteria for being in the
program. Almost every staff member in the building had
2-3 mentees - everyone from the administration, teachers,
and counselors to the educational assistants, cafeteria
workers and custodians. Over 150 students were in that
mentor program which began in 1998.

Each mentor was given a mentor folder with a permission
slip, a brochure about the program, a profile sheet, and
tips on being a mentor, a pencil and a "Welcome Back to
School"card. The profile sheet identified their mentees,
homeroom teacher, grade, birthday, and area of concern.
Also included in the packet was a birthday card and pencil
for the mentor to give their mentees.

Giving gifts was left of to the discretion of the mentor.
Some mentees came to expect gifts and the purpose of the
mentor relationship was diminished. The kids came to
expect them and thought that they were ‘entitled' to
getting things from the mentor. I had students asking
me to be in the mentor program because they wanted to get

We really learned that first year to reinforce that the
mentor program was about improving behavior and grades
to be more successful in school - and we had to keep
telling the kids that too!

As all of you know, people who work in a school are super
busy, and we found that having even just 2 mentees was too
much. It was difficult to develop the relationship and
effect change because the mentors were stretched too thin.
So in the years to come, and we are in our 7th year of the
mentor program, we have assigned everyone only 1 mentee.

Another area of concern was keeping track of the number of
mentors in the program. Over the years we have reduced
this number - first we cut back to only the professional
staff having mentees. Staff who wanted to be mentors and
had the knack for working with these problematic students
were asked to be mentors. A few educational assistants
were also asked also because of their expertise in this
area also.

Dramatic results were reported with a group of middle
school girls. One of the girls had to actually break away
from the group of girls who were bullying, so she could
improve her reputation as a respectful and serious student.
This was a difficult process, and she had 2 mentors working
with her to help her make this difficult peer group
change. The parent/guardian was not supportive. By the
end of the school year, she had completely changed groups
of friends, made the honor roll, and received a multitude
of awards for academic excellence at the quarterly awards

So, don't worry that you don't have all the pieces in
place. You will learn and improve your program each year.
Just start helping these kids! You will be inspired and
the kids will be thrilled and getting their education!

For more information on kick starting your mentor program,
send an email to

Paula McCoach has been in public education for 23 years.
She has been a school counselor for the past 10 in an
alternative school and an elementary/middle school in
Maryland. She has spearheaded mentor programs, Character
Education initiatives, & Bully awareness. For more
information, send an email to