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Web-Based Training for School-Based Mentors of Military-Connected Youth: A Multi-Phase Development Study


This paper describes a multi-phase effort to develop a web-based training for adults serving as mentors in school-based programs for youth with a parent in the military. In Phase 1, we conducted focus groups with military parents to: gauge their receptivity to this type of supportive intervention, identify program features that would make the option of mentoring for their children more or less appealing, and identify specific training needs for adult volunteers preparing for the role of mentor to youth in this population. In Phase 2, we used an iterative process to develop the training protocol, including cycling through multiple drafts, creating a web-based platform, reviewing and incorporating feedback from various stakeholders, and then pilot testing the training with two groups of mentor volunteers as part of a school-based mentoring program for military-connected students. We report on what we learned from the military parent focus groups, including parent skepticism about the need for such a program, concerns about potential stigma, and the need for mentors to have some understanding of military culture. We describe how we used that information to develop a practical and accessible training module for volunteer mentors, especially those without a military background, who could be matched with military-connected youth.

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The research reported here was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education (Award No. R305A14028), through Grant to University of Arkansas. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education. We are grateful for the partnerships with North Thurston Public Schools and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Washington that made this research possible.

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Correspondence to Renée Spencer.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional review board at the University of Arkansas (FWA 00001952) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Spencer, R., Gowdy, G., Herrera, C. et al. Web-Based Training for School-Based Mentors of Military-Connected Youth: A Multi-Phase Development Study. J Primary Prevent 41, 567–583 (2020).

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  • Military-connected youth
  • Mentor training
  • Focus groups