Date of Award

Spring 5-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in School Leadership


Center for Leadership & Learning


College of Education

Committee Chair

Dr. Sarah Gordon

Second Committee Member

Dr. Mary B. Gunter

Third Committee Member

Dr. John Mark Day

Program Director

Dr. John Freeman

Dean of Graduate College

Dr. Richard Schoephoerster


Although past studies of mentoring at-risk youth have yielded mixed results (Faith et al., 2011; DeWit et al., 2016), mentoring as an intervention for at-risk youth has increased in the past decade and has been supported by the United States Federal Government (Hughes, Boyd, & Dykstra, 2010; Gordon, Downey, & Bangert, 2013; Reddick, Griffin, & Cherwitz, 2011). Because studies focused on the perceptions and experiences of mentors are limited (Hughes et al., 2010; Haddock et al., 2017), and because of frequency of early mentor/mentee relationship termination (Grossman et al., 2012; Golder, 2016), this qualitative study sought to capture and understand the voices of the mentors. Using in-depth interviews, program training materials, and written reflections by the mentors, this study explored the perceptions, experiences, and meaning-making of 11 college students who had volunteered to mentor at-risk K-12 youth for a minimum of two years. The study’s setting was a 33-year-old site-based mentoring program in Russellville, Arkansas, known as Age to Age. Findings in the study relate to (a) motivations to begin and continue mentoring; (b) role conceptualization; (c) benefits and challenges of mentoring; (d) overcoming the challenges of mentoring; (e) meaning assigned to mentoring; and (f) how mentors experienced program components and processes. Findings may inform mentor recruitment, training, retention and may also inform educational leaders who work with at-risk youth. The theoretical underpinning for this study was Self-Determination Theory (Ryan & Deci, 2017). The study also implicates the importance of understanding rejection sensitivity (McDonald et al., 2010; Grossman et al., 2012).