Press Releases


iRT Presents Results of Evaluation of National Demonstration Project Designed to Enhance the Impact of Mentoring on Children of Incarcerated Parents

When a parent or caregiver of a child is incarcerated, the impact of incarceration on the child can be a traumatic experience with long-lasting effects. Children of incarcerated caregivers are susceptible to a wide range of negative outcomes, from depression and low self-esteem to substance abuse and delinquent behavior.

To develop new avenues of support and early intervention for youth potentially impacted by the incarceration of a loved one, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) funded a multi-year, multi-site national initiative, the Mentoring Children of Incarcerated Parents (MCOIP) Demonstration Project, in a pair of grant awards. The first award focused on developing and implementing mentoring program enhancements to better serve youth impacted by caregiver incarceration, and the second award focused on evaluating the effectiveness of the new program enhancements.

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Dr. Stelter Appointed to the MENTOR NC Board of Directors

Durham, NC, May 5, 2021 – innovation Research & Training is pleased to announce Dr. Rebecca Stelter’s appointment to the MENTOR NC  Board of Directors.

MENTOR NC is a non-profit organization that is a state affiliate of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership that is “dedicated to increasing the number of youth in quality mentoring relationships across North Carolina while working to address the systemic barriers that young people face on a daily basis.”

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iRT Awarded NIGMS Grant

Durham, NC, September 30, 2020 – innovation Research & Training (iRT) is expanding its suite of mentor training courses to include training for mentors who work with STEM mentoring programs. The National Institute for General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) awarded iRT with a grant (R43GM137663) to fund the development of a new, customizable mentor training course that covers new topics that are particularly relevant for informal STEM learning environments. A primary goal of this training will be to attract and retain youth in a STEM field from groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM careers including first generation college students, youth with a disability, girls, and youth from an ethnic or racial minority group.

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Dr. Rebecca Stelter, a Research Scientist II at iRT, will be co-presenting at the virtual 2021 National Mentoring Summit on Intentional program planning to create a safe (virtual) space for mentees during unprecedented times, on  Friday, 1/29/2021, from 2:14 – 3:45 PM. Dr. Stelter and her co-presenter, Darlene H. Marlin, Senior Director at National Urban League, will discuss the National Urban League’s Project Ready: Mentor program. The Project Ready: Mentor provides group mentoring to prepare students for college, work, and life through the development of 21st Century, as well as other critical social skills. The program also has the goal of fostering personal, global, and cultural awareness. Project Ready: Mentor is built on the research-based best practices outlined in the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring and the 110 years of the NUL’s racial justice and education work. This session will provide attendees with key practices for creating physically and emotionally safe spaces for mentees to participate in a group mentoring program that meets their needs and builds their assets.


iRT Partners with College Access for All

iRT has partnered with College Access for All, an initiative developed by NYC Schools and Mayor Bill de Blasio to ensure all students are engaged in a “college-ready” culture.

Hundreds of schools participate in this initiative, which was designed to help students form a career and college plan upon graduation from high school. College Access for All provides several support services for students, including funding Student Success Centers, eliminating application fees to the City University of New York, and providing for high school juniors to take the SAT for free.

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Webinar: Applying the EEPM 4 to Diverse Models and Youth Populations [free]

Applying the EEPM 4 to Diverse Models and Youth Populations [free]

2/25/16 1-2:30pm EST

~ 75 minutes

Applying the EEPM 4 to Diverse Models and Youth Populations will provide attendees with an interactive discussion on how the Elements of Effective Practice applies to mentoring programs given the diverse array of mentee and mentor populations and program models. In addition, we will solicit questions and feedback from attendees regarding how the EEPM applies to their programs.

Take the free training at: Free Mentoring Central

[Webinar] Risk Management Part 2 – 1pm (EST) Feb. 16, 2016

Risky Business (Part 2): Developing your mentoring program’s risk management policies [free]

Take the Free Training at Free Mentoring Central

A mentoring relationship cannot be considered effective unless it is safe. Training on ethics and safety in mentoring is critical to ensuring the health and well-being of mentees and mentors. The recently released Fourth Edition of the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring (EEPM) identified a set of risk management topics that programs should address in their policies and include in their training of mentors, mentees, and parent or guardians. This three-part webinar series will focus on how mentoring programs can decrease the potential for harm to anyone involved in a mentoring relationship.

Join our expert researchers (Drs. Janis Kupersmidt and Rebecca Stelter) and practitioner (Ms. Sharon Daura) who will provide a thorough exploration of the 19 risk management topics outlined in the EEPM, with the goal of helping you to fine-tune your existing program policies or develop new ones.  After you attend these webinars, you will understand the importance and relevance of each topic for mentoring as well as key issues to address in your policies.  Future training will focus on how to conduct mentor, mentee, and parent or guardian training on these policies.

The second webinar in the series focuses on issues to consider in a mentoring program’s risk management policies and practices that are related to communications by mentors, mentees, parents or guardians, and the mentoring program with individuals, organizations, and media outlets that are outside of the mentoring relationship.

Celebrating 25 Years of the Youth Mentoring Movement

Monday, November 9, New York City—The National Mentoring Partnership (MENTOR) is proud to celebrate 25 years of building and unifying a youth mentoring movement in 2015! This yearlong celebration will include a special event at The Plaza Hotel on Monday, November 9 honoring MENTOR’s co-founders and commemorating a quarter of a century of milestones and achievements in the field. More on this celebration:

Advanced Screening

November 17, Boston–Join Mass Mentoring Partnership for an advanced training that will build upon the basics of screening. Participants will have the opportunity to refine program eligibility requirements, receive feedback on program applications and interview forms, enhance awareness of red flags, and practice relevant steps in the screening process.  Participants will receive MMP’s Advanced Screening Workbook which contains useful tools and templates to support screening of volunteers and mentors. Register:

National Mentoring Month: Amplifying Your Voice

November 19, 1 p.m. to 2:15 p.m., EDT–Planning to participate in National Mentoring Month this January? Join this webinar to learn best practices for amplifying your voice during this yearly recruitment campaign. We will feature panelists from Midlands Mentoring Partnership in Nebraska, TeamMates Mentoring in Iowa and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Mid-South in Tennessee. Each presenter will speak on a different way to engage throughout the month. Whether you represent a small, mid-size or large program, there will be plenty of useful information shared. Register now! Facilitated by MENTOR. For more information:

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Study Analyzes Reasons for Premature Closure of Mentoring Relationship for Youth With a Visual Impairment

By jmeyer

We all like to look at the world around us and feel like we’re represented. Whether it’s race, sex, a disability, or anything else that makes us unique — spending quality time with others who have our specific view of the world can have a positive impact on our health and well-being.

Mentoring is one such way to connect people, especially youth, with people who may have had similar life experiences as a way of building a sense of independence and increasing social participation. But is securing the match enough to guarantee success for mentors and mentees in your program?

Research shows that early relationship closure of a mentoring match may lead to the mentee experiencing feelings of rejection and disappointment. This may be especially true for mentees with a disability. What additional training could be provided to match members to build a successful relationship and avoid premature closure? What other factors should mentoring programs be aware of to support matches involving mentees with a disability to avoid situations that may negatively impact and potentially undermine their match?

Background on the Study

Research scientists Drs. Eline Heppe, Janis Kupersmidt, and Sabina Kef explored these ideas and published their findings in the Journal of Adolescent Research in an article entitled “Reasons for premature closure of a mentoring relationship: A qualitative study of mentoring youth with a visual impairment.

The idea for the study came to Drs. Kef and Heppe after reviewing findings from 250 research participants who had a visual impairment. Interviews over a span of 20 years revealed that as the participants entered adulthood, they reported that receiving support during their adolescence from an expert through experiences with people such as a mentor with a similar disability could have been helpful and provided them with needed support.

“They said that having more support from someone with a visual impairment who had already lived through these experiences would have helped them, for example, during the transition from school to work, in finding a romantic relationship, and navigating peer relationships as they grew up,” said Heppe.

Study Findings

The study began with 36 matches. All the mentees had a visual impairment (VI); 18 mentors also had a visual impairment. All matches were asked to meet one-on-one at least monthly for 12 months. All participants in the study understood that the goal of the mentoring program was to increase the social participation of the mentees to promote their autonomy in the context of social relationships, leisure activities, and school or work.

Notably, 16 of the 18 matches involving a mentor with VI (89%) ended prematurely, which was much higher than the matches involving mentors without VI (8 matches ended prematurely or 44% of the matches) and also was much higher than the 38% average found for adolescents participating in one-on-one community-based mentoring programs. In this study, mentees were more likely to request premature closure of the match, and about a third of the mentors didn’t think that sharing the same disability would add value to the mentoring relationship.

“That was the biggest surprise,” said Heppe. “We didn’t expect such high premature ending rates in pairs who both had a visual impairment.”

“I naively thought that if a mentor had a visual impairment and a mentee had a visual impairment, they would have shared common life experiences, which would help them grow closer,” said Kupersmidt. “I thought that these mentors could be a role model to the mentee, and that they could provide each other with companionship and fun, but that’s not what actually happened in most matches.”

So, if adults with a visual impairment said they would have welcomed the influence of a mentor with a similar disability during their adolescence, why was the rate of premature closure in this study so high? Where is the disconnect?

Hurdles with Relationship Skills

The initial results revealed no red flags suggesting that matches containing both mentors and mentees with a visual impairment would result in high premature closure rates. Researchers said they didn’t find any difference in the quality of the relationships between those who had a mentor with or without a visual impairment.

Researchers did find that mentors with and without a visual impairment struggled to connect with mentees, especially when the mentee was not motivated to pursue the mentoring relationship or had other problems.

“A lot of studies show that people who have visual impairments have difficulties with social skills; for example, turn-taking in a conversation could be difficult,” said Heppe. “They can miss a lot of information from the other person’s face during conversations, which can be confusing for both people. So, I think if we were to do this mentoring program again, I would put more effort into training the mentors, but also into training the mentees. We need to include more details to help establish the mentoring relationship.”

In some cases, the mentee’s family placed additional hurdles in the way of building a match. Parents of children with disabilities can be more protective of their children, which Kupersmidt says can unknowingly undermine the child’s confidence and the ability to develop a close, trusting relationship with a mentor.

“Some parents didn’t really understand the value of their child having a mentor; there were situations where parents interfered with the mentor and mentee getting together for activities in the community.”

“Parents were sometimes hesitant of leaving their child or allowing them to meet away from the home with a mentor who was also visually impaired,” said Heppe. “This was a big challenge for mentors; they felt the parents were saying, ‘You’re not okay because you have a visual impairment,’ whereas mentors thought, ‘I can do this!’”

Heppe suggested that mentoring agencies should discuss these potential challenges with mentors and parents to make them all partners in the mentoring experience.

“Parents are concerned, and I think that’s very important for agencies to know,” said Heppe. “Agencies should consider how they can better guarantee the mentee’s safety: to make parents feel comfortable. Mentors should also be informed about the mentee’s background, so they can understand and guide the mentee to develop new social and communication skills.”

Recommendations for Mentor Programs

Setting realistic expectations for everyone involved in the mentoring relationship is another important lesson learned from this study. Just because a parent signs up their child, who may have a disability, to participate in a mentoring program doesn’t necessarily mean the child understands the value or relevance of the program.

Researchers also recommend pre-match training for mentors and mentees to better understand the program requirements, its goals, and each other’s roles and responsibilities. Providing training to mentees could help them learn how to talk about their disability to their mentor, especially about the effect the disability has on their daily life, how a mentor can help support them, and situations where help is not needed from the mentor. Training for mentors could give them opportunities to consider potential scenarios that may occur with their mentee related to the disability as well as to ask mentoring program staff members any questions they may have.

“A lot of programs don’t require mentee training, and I think it’s really important,” said Heppe. “Young people want to be with their friends, and they may not want to be with their mentor. I think it’s really helpful for youth to have a sense of the reason why they’re in this program and what it could do for them.”

To read the full research article, visit the Journal of Adolescent Research.


Training Mentors to Be More Effective When Virtual Mentoring Is the Only Option

By jmeyer

Virtual mentoring (also known as e-mentoring, online mentoring, or digital mentoring) happens when a mentor and a mentee primarily communicate through a computer or mobile device (e.g., smartphone, tablet, video game console, text, etc.) Communicating with technology is becoming more common in many aspects of our lives today including in mentoring relationships.

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Introducing the Orientation to Mentoring for Mentors Training

By jmeyer

Mentoring Central is pleased to introduce instructional materials for conducting a new standalone, in-person, instructor-led training designed to benefit all organizations that truly value their mentoring programs. The Orientation to Mentoring for Mentors kit includes a compilation of information and situations that your mentoring program can use to introduce new volunteers to the history and requirements of your organization. It’s presented in an easy-to-follow method that includes interactive activities to engage your mentor audience.

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Research Assistant

By Richard Van Horn

POSITION TITLE:  Research Assistant
EMPLOYER:  Innovation Research & Training
LOCATION (City, State):  Durham, NC

START DATE:  Available immediately


Innovation Research & Training (IRT) seeks a part- or full-time Research Assistant to work on qualitative and quantitative research, training and intervention development, technical assistance, and customer support projects in the fields of mentoring and prevention.

Job Description: Participate as a team member on research, evaluation, training, technical assistance, and customer support projects. Responsibilities include conducting scientific literature reviews; assisting with writing presentations, manuscripts, and grant proposals; recruiting study participants; collecting, transcribing, coding, and entering data; maintaining meeting minutes; helping with developing and writing in-person and online training and intervention programs; and assisting with customer support and administrative work.

Requirements: 2 or more years of research experience in psychology or related field as an undergraduate or post-baccalaureate. Must be able to work as a team member as well as independently; take initiative; be extremely attentive to detail; and have excellent interpersonal skills. The successful candidate will need to be familiar with all Microsoft Office programs as well as have strong writing and verbal communication skills.

Compensation:  Salary is based upon education and previous work experience. We offer a comprehensive benefits package which includes BCBS health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, life insurance, short- and long-term disability, PTO, an employer-matched SIMPLE IRA, and more. Drug-free, smoke-free work environment. No relocation assistance available.

Company:  iRT is a small behavioral science research and development firm located in Durham, North Carolina. IRT specializes in the development, evaluation, and dissemination of evidence-based prevention and intervention programs and services to improve the lives of children, adolescents, and families.

Our team is working entirely remotely due to COVID-19. All interviews will be held via video conference.

 If interested, please submit a cover letter including your available start date, CV or resume, at least one scientific writing sample, and three references to Dr. Janis Kupersmidt at


Health Communications Writer

By Mentoring Central

POSITION TITLE:  Health Communications Writer
EMPLOYER:  Innovation Research & Training
LOCATION (City, State):  Durham, NC


innovation Research & Training (iRT) seeks a part-time writer to work on health and social media communications starting in February 2021. We are looking for a highly motivated, creative, self-starter who can write with a customer-centered mindset about the research, products, and services relevant to iRT’s work, with a focus on our projects in the field of youth mentoring. If you have strong writing skills and desire to make a difference in the lives of children and families, read about our work and consider joining our team!

iRT is a small behavioral sciences research company that specializes in the creation of evidence-based, health promotion and asset-building interventions and resources. Our mission is to create products and services that improve the well-being of youth, families, schools, communities, and organizations. Technological innovations are fundamental to our mission.

Job Description:  The person in this position will contribute to developing and implementing communication strategies for the projects, products, and people at iRT in the field of mentoring.

The ideal candidate would be able to start immediately.


  • Coursework in communications, preferably in health and social media communication
  • Excellent knowledge of grammar and punctuation
  • Must be flexible and able to handle multiple projects simultaneously
  • 1-2 years of experience in a communications field
  • Proficiency using Microsoft products (e.g., Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook)
  • Must be legally able to work in the U.S.

Experience with the following desired:

  • Use of a customer relations management (CRM) software program
  • eHealth or eLearning programs
  • Google Analytics
  • Social media communications
  • Marketing or strategic communications
  • Social media scheduling software
  • Being a mentor to a child or adolescent

If you are interested in working with our team, please submit a cover letter including your available start date, your resume, a writing sample, and three references to