Normally, Personal Progress mentoring is done by a YW who has completed the Personal Progress program and is mentoring as part of earning their honor bee charm. For more information about earning the honor bee charm, see the "What do I do when I complete Personal Progress?" section of the Personal Progress site on lds.org found HERE
With so many YW in our area struggling with Personal Progress, we wanted to develop a mentoring system to help the incoming Beehive girls start strong and stay active in the program. Many of our YW in the Mia Maid and Laurel classes just aren't interested in Personal Progress. Try as we might with incentives and charts and awards, it isn't making much of a difference. We encourage girls to complete Personal Progress by age 16 (and the boys to complete their Eagle by age 16) because after that, it becomes more difficult because they are driving, dating, working and/or preparing to leave for college/missions. If they don't start before 16, it is very difficult to complete the program. By that time, much of the interest just isn't there for some of these girls. We feel like if we can develop interest in the program early on (when the girls are still enthusiastic Beehives), we will have better success with girls starting & completing the entire program in the future.
However, since all of the older girls in the ward who had completed the program had since moved away, we only had one remaining girl (a Beehive) in the ward who had earned her award/medallion. We weren't sure how to have a Beehive mentor other (same-age) Beehives. And who would mentor Mia Maids and Laurels who were struggling (or not participating at all)? A Beehive? We were concerned partly because of the age difference (and/or lack of age difference) and partly because there was only one girl who could be responsible for mentoring everyone in the program who needed support.
We could have taken on the mentoring roles as a Presidency, but I felt strongly that we were overlooking a leadership opportunity for the YW in our ward.
With this in mind, we decided to adapt the peer-mentoring concept to better fit our situation. We selected several Beehive girls who we felt would benefit the most from peer mentoring. We didn't have a pre-decided number of girls, but selected some girls who were Beehives who had not done anything in Personal Progress but seemed willing/interested. We also included all Beehives who had not yet had a Personal Progress training meeting*. I did not include anyone who is just not interested in Personal Progress or who refuses to participate in Personal Progress. Although those girls could certainly benefit from mentoring, I didn't feel like that trying to coerce a YW into participating would be the best use of our limited peer-mentoring resources. Especially in these initial stages.
With three girls selected for potential mentoring, we moved on to the next stage in our planning - who would do the mentoring? Again, according to the handbook, this is something that is recommended as a project for girls who have already completed the Personal Progress program. I don't think that means that other girls (still in the middle of Personal Progress themselves) can't serve as mentors. In any case, we have a large Beehive class (and more coming in this year), but not enough honor-bee-seeking girls to do it. In our situation, we decided to select several girls who are actively participating in Personal Progress and seem to have a good understanding of how the program works. We were also looking for girls who were mature enough (regardless of age) to take the responsibility and follow through with it.
We ended up selecting 3 girls as peer-mentors. They all happened to be Beehives at the time, but 2 of them have since moved up to the Mia Maid class. I want to reemphasize that we were looking for mature and self-starting girls, not necessarily girls of a certain age. Other important qualities would be responsibility, understanding of the program, patience, and kindness. The girls that we chose all happened to be serving in class presidencies at the time. This was not part of our decision, but their responsibility level in their calling (if they have one) might be something to consider.
We prayerfully matched up the 3 mentor girls with a mentee, but were careful to match each mentor with a younger mentee (even if that age difference is only a matter of months). I feel like some girls would feel weird about being "helped" by a younger girl.
We currently have:
- a 14 1/2 year old mentoring a 13 1/2 year old
- a 14 year old mentoring a 12 year old
- a 13 year old mentoring a 12 year old
Using the Relief Society visiting teaching program as a model, we set up a system of reporting and following up. The mentor is responsible for checking in with her "mentee" on at least a once a month basis (more often is preferable), seeing if she needs help or has questions, and encouraging her to work on Personal Progress. They can work together and help however they want (as long as they follow the guidelines in the Personal Progress book), but there isn't a specific assignment that they need to accomplish (such as getting them to complete a certain number of Value Experiences each month). The mentoring is meant to be a support and a reminder for the mentee to do Personal Progress (in her own time).
They are not assigned in pairs (as visiting teachers are) and they are not required to visit the home of the mentee. They are encouraged to meet with/talk to their mentee in whatever way works best (call them at home, speak to them after YW class, come a little early for Mutual to meet & go over their progress, etc).
Three members of our YW Presidency (myself, 1st Counselor, and Secretary) have each been assigned one mentor to supervise. At the end of the month, the supervisor checks in with the mentor to get a "report" of what had been done. The supervisors may also remind the mentors to check in with their menthes (mid-month) and see if they need any help with their mentoring. The supervisors report the progress of the mentors/mentees back at YW Presidency meetings. We have a new Presidency member, so when another Beehive comes in, she will become a supervisor in the program as well.
We have not announced this program to the entire YW group, because we didn't want anyone to feel slighted (for not being selected as a mentor or not being mentored) or to have anyone who has been struggling feel as if they are a "project". With new Beehives, we are now inviting the assigned mentor to attend the Personal Progress training meeting with her mentee. At that time, we explain to the new Beehive that so and so will be mentoring her, and that it is a new program that we are starting with all incoming Beehives.
We plan to add additional mentors as new Beehives come up from Primary. If (suitable) new mentors are not available, we may add 2 mentees to some mentors if needed.
Here is a break-down of the basics of our Personal Progress Mentoring Program:
If you have YW who have completed the Personal Progress program and are capable/mature of mentoring (hopefully they are, but that isn't always the case), that is ideal. Girls who have completed Personal Progress may use their mentoring hours toward earning their honor bee charm. We also selected 2 girls to be mentors who have not completed Personal Progress, but are self-starters and are working steadily on the program. The main things I would suggest looking for in a mentor are maturity, responsibility, understanding of the program, patience, and kindness. Mentors who have not completed their own Personal Progress program do not earn hours toward their honor bee, but may be able to use their service toward Personal Progress Value Experiences or a Value Project.
In our situation, only Beehives are currently being mentored, but any girl who needs help/support could be mentored. I would suggest having older girls mentoring younger girls if at all possible, to help avoid awkwardness. We plan to add all incoming Beehives to the mentoring program. We prayerfully select which mentees to match up with which mentors.
Members of the YW Presidency who are assigned to check in with certain mentors and get a monthly report (similar to a Visiting Teaching Supervisor). We have one Presidency member assigned to one mentor, but you could also have one person in charge of checking with all the mentors (such as the YW Secretary). It is also helpful to make reminders mid-month, in case the mentor forgets to check in with her mentee.
We hope that using this peer-mentoring system to support and encourage new Beehives to do Personal Progress will help to emphasize the importance of the program and encourage a strong class with testimonies that will eventually be able to lead and mentor young women themselves.
While this solution might not work in every branch/ward, we have been doing this for several months and it has been FANTASTIC! It is another opportunity for these mentor girls to learn the skills they will need to serve in the church and community as adults. As we continue to raise the bar for our missionaries, lets raise the bar in preparing future missionaries (and future parents, future leaders, etc)!
*We normally schedule this meeting with every new Beehive, one or both parents, and the Presidency member over the Beehive class within a week or two of the new Beehive entering the YW Program. They go over the program and answer questions, etc. This had not been done in a while because of the tragic and unexpected loss of one of our Presidency members, but we are getting caught up with this now.
**Please also note that the mentors we selected were given this responsibility as an assignment, not a calling.