Being There for Young People: YDL Team Member Contributes to New Resource for Mentors

January 25, 2022

January is annually recognized as National Mentoring Month. Honoring the efforts of mentors and promoting mentoring activities makes a great deal of sense. Mentoring relationships are one of the most important assets for promoting thriving and reducing risk behaviors in young people. Youth who have mentors in their lives report a range of better psychological, socioemotional, and behavioral outcomes across adolescence as compared to youth without these relationships.

As part of this celebration of mentors and their efforts, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership has released a new resource to strengthen mentors’ support of young people. Becoming a Better Mentor: Strategies to Be There for Young People was designed specifically for mentors and is available as a written resource, an animated video series (see below), and a soon to be released audiobook. Becoming a Better Mentor is written by experts in the field and full of real-world advice and evidence-based strategies. The guide offers actionable steps mentors can take to ensure they are providing youth with quality support.

YDL’s own Dr. Ed Bowers contributed a chapter on goal setting and support to this essential volume.  The chapter summarizes a wealth of evidence from the field of mentoring, but it is framed by Dr. Bowers’ work on goal-directed skills. Dr. Bowers and colleagues have conducted several studies on the links between goal-directed skills and positive youth development as well as how mentors can support the development of these skills.  Through their work, they identified three key skills that youth use to set and achieve their goals.

Youth with higher levels of these skills are more competent and confident, have higher character and healthier connections to others, and show care for and contribute to the lives of others. These youth are also less likely to report depressive symptoms or engage in delinquent behaviors, smoking, underage drinking, and substance use.

To make these skills more tangible to mentors and youth, Dr. Bowers and his colleagues developed a metaphor of a GPS navigation system on your smart phone to describe these skills. Youth enter their destination (Goal Selection), and the GPS provides them a route to reach their destination (Pursuit of Strategies). Sometimes, youth encounter traffic or roadblocks, so they are re-routed (Shifting Gears). Mentors might view themselves as driver’s ed instructors providing support to their mentees throughout the learning process. Materials based around the GPS metaphor have been linked to positive outcomes in youth in the U.S. and in China.

Each chapter in Becoming a Better Mentor, including Dr. Bowers’, provides an overview of a core mentoring practice, why that practice is important, what it looks like when working with youth, and tips on how to integrate each of these practices into one’s relationships with diverse young people.

As part of the promotion of the resource, Dr. Bowers will also join with colleagues to present an overview of the resource on January 27, 2022, during a workshop session of the National Mentoring Summit. The Summit is fully virtual so you can still register for this key annual event in the mentoring movement.

If Dr Bowers’ work on youth mentoring has piqued your interest… 

Dr Bowers’ is just one of a team of developmental experts who teach on Clemson University’s online Master of Science degree in Youth Development Leadership (36 credit hours, 12 courses, 2 years) as well as a Graduate Certificate in youth development leadership (15 credit hours, 5 courses). These programs are uniquely designed for professionals working in youth development settings. For more information, visit or email”


Bowers, E. P., Geldhof, G. J., Schmid, K. L., Napolitano, C. M., Minor, K., & Lerner, J. V. (2012). Relationships with important nonparental adults and positive youth development: An examination of youth self-regulatory strengths as mediators. Research in Human Development, 9(4), 298 – 316.

Bowers, E. P., Gestsdóttir, S., Geldhof, J., Nikitin, J., von Eye, A., & Lerner, R. M. (2011). Developmental trajectories of intentional self regulation in adolescence: The role of parenting and implications for positive and problematic outcomes among diverse youth. Journal of Adolescence, 34(6), 1193 – 1206.

Bowers, E. P., Johnson, S. K., Warren, D. J. A., Tirrell, J. M., & Lerner, J. V. (2015). Youth-adult relationships and positive youth development. In Bowers et al. (Eds.), Promoting positive youth development: Lessons from the 4-H Study (pp. 97-120). New York, NY: Springer.

Bowers, E. P., Napolitano, C. M., Arbeit, M. R., Chase, P., Glickman, S. A., Lerner, J. V., Lerner, R. M. (2013). On a pathway towards thriving: Evaluating the effectiveness of the “GPS to Success” tools to promote positive development and intentional self regulation in youth. Journal of Youth Development, 8(3) 4 – 31.

Bowers, E. P., Wang, J., Tirrell, J. M., & Lerner, R. M. (2016). A cross-lagged model of the development of mentor-mentee relationships and intentional self regulation in adolescence. Journal of Community Psychology, 44(1), 118 – 138.

Gestsdóttir, S., Bowers, E. P., von Eye, A., Napolitano, C., & Lerner, R. M. (2010). Intentional self regulation in middle adolescence: The emerging role of loss-based selection in positive youth development. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39, 764-782.

Liu, F., Bowers, E. P., Gai, X., & Ren, W. (2020). Enhancing the intentional self-regulation skills of Chinese adolescents living in orphanages: A school-based intervention. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 23(3), 339-348.

Napolitano, C. M., Bowers, E. P., Arbeit, M. R., Chase, P., Geldhof, G. J., Lerner, J. V., Lerner, R. M. (2014). The GPS to Success growth grids: Measurement properties of a tool to promote intentional self regulation in mentoring programs. Applied Developmental Science, 18(1), 46 – 58.