Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 14–27 | Cite as

Educationally-Based, Culturally-Sensitive, Theory-Driven Mentorship Intervention with At-risk Native American Youth in South Dakota: A Narrative Review

  • Crystal AschenbrenerEmail author
  • Sherry Johnson
Original Paper


Native American youth struggle with many social issues such as poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, and dropping out of high school, as a result of historical trauma and the current conditions on the reservation. This narrative review found that existing mentorship programs lack adequate research, particularly with Native American youth and youth from rural settings, yet the limited research does demonstrate potential promise. Available research findings suggest that mentorship programs are supporting at-risk youth generally, particularly with increasing their self-worth as well as having educational benefit for the youth. Two theoretical frameworks, strengths perspective and social learning theory, have been determined to offer support to increase the value of mentorship programs for Native American youth. This narrative review concludes that by understanding the social issues and the impact of historical trauma as well as understanding the use of applied theories, strong programming, and helpful factors or considerations, a culturally-sensitive, educationally-based mentorship intervention has potential to support at-risk Native American youth feel motivated to move forward with their educational futures.


Native American youth At-risk youth Mentorship programs Strengths perspective Social learning theory 



This article was inspired by the Native American youth of the tribal school, Enemy Swim Day School supported by the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe on the Lake Traverse reservation in South Dakota. The youth, as mentees, celebrated and benefited from the strengths of the mentorship program while sharing of themselves and their culture with the college student mentors. In addition, this article was inspired by the college students who committed whole-heartedly as well as freely became a learning participant to this mutually-beneficial partnership as they served as mentors for this mentorship program. Together, this mentorship program positively influence both the youth and college students personally and educationally.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This research has been approved by the tribal school—school board as well as the IRB from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. The tribal school and tribal education ensures the research is safe, appropriate, and cultural sensitive.

Informed Consent

Informed consent is always gathered from both the target group, Native American seventh/eighth graders and their parent/guardian. The tribal school ensures parents/guardians are aware and comfortable with their children participate in the research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Wisconsin-StoutMenomonieUSA
  2. 2.Box 509 Agency Village USA

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