Training Teen Mentors for Young Artists

Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM) is a nonprofit educational, artistic and cultural organization in Provincetown, Mass. PAAM’s Reaching Forward Mentoring Program provides professional development in the arts for youth ages 17-21 years, while presenting positive role models for middle school students in an engaging professional studio and museum environment. Student mentors work with skilled teaching-artists and educators and receive training to support Art on the Edge, a Saturday arts program for 12- to 15-year-olds.


As PAAM moved into its second year of the Reaching Forward program, staff asked Youth Catalytics (then NEN) to provide mentor training that focused on helping mentors understand their relationship to mentees, boundaries, and the expectation that they uphold existing Arts on the Edge structure and expectations. We had previously worked in connection with PAAM under the Compassion Mass. grant in order to provide Positive Youth Development training and consultation around outcome measurement objectives and indicators for youth programming.

What We Did

Working closely with PAAM, we created a full-day mentor training that incorporated positive youth development principles within the context of program goals and organizational expectations. The training used experiential activities tied to theory-based learning principles and packaged in fun to keep young people and adults engaged in the training. Throughout the day, we:

  • Facilitated a variety of team- and trust-building activities with mentors and artist-teachers including personal sharing and physical challenges. Each activity included reflection, which asked participants to consider how the lessons learned in the activity were relevant to the mentor program.
  • Guided a conversation about the goals and expectations of the Reaching Forward and Arts on the Edge programs to ensure full understanding and commitment to the objectives
  • Defined and discussed the role of the mentor and of the mentee, phases of the mentoring relationship and how to support relationship development while also achieving program goals
  • Practiced communication skills and used experiential activities to demonstrate how communication can go off-track, how to give and receive feedback in a direct and supportive manner and how to resolve conflicts
  • Explored how mentors transform the mentee/mentor relationship as mentees ‘graduate’ and move towards independence


Youth Catalytics trained three young people as mentors in 2010 who mentored 20 middle school students. In 2011, we trained five mentors who were matched with 32 students. The training experience:

  • Facilitated PAAM’s observation of new mentors practicing key skills and identifying areas for future professional development
  • Strengthened the abilities of mentor and teacher-artist teams to work together toward program goals
  • Increased tools available to and used by mentors and teacher-artists for reflection and continued development
  • Taught specific mentor skills and strategies that emerged as key elements of program effectiveness and targeted recruitment efforts
  • Supported and reinforced PAAM’s decision to match specific mentees with individual mentors which research indicates improves relationship quality
  • Reinforced overall program goals and expectations leading to better implementation and ability to monitor program performance


“The support, knowledge, and resources provided by NEN and specifically, the expertise and enthusiasm of Cindy Wilson, have all been instrumental in creating programming at PAAM that supports the young people of our community. Working with NEN helps us meet our goals to provide professional development in the arts and innovative educational opportunities of the highest caliber.”
~ Lynn Stanley, Curator of Education, PAAM

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