The goals of the Peraj Mentoring Program are to support the social, emotional, and academic development of children through personalized and meaningful relationships with college student mentors.
The program targets elementary school children in Mexico whose familial and social contexts put them at increased risk for underachievement and antisocial behaviors.
Peraj pairs college student mentors with fifth- and sixth-grade students for a period of 10 months. Mentors and mentees meet one-on-one for 4 to 5 hours a week and engage in structured activities covering the following development areas: 1) affective: to strengthen self-esteem, provide emotional support, and promote the expression of affections, connectedness, and self-care; 2) communication: to aid in the development of written and verbal communication skills; 3) academics: to help with schoolwork, develop study habits, and promote interest in reading, science, math, and learning in general; 4) motivation: to broaden aspirations in academic and personal life; 5) social: to promote integration, collaboration, interaction, sense of community and belonging; and 6) cultural: to enrich their cultural, artistic, scientific, and recreational exposure (Moreno-Candil and Garza 2017).
Mentors and mentees are matched based on information regarding personality and interests that is gathered during the screening process. Mentors receive training on different aspects of the mentoring relationship and the program, including child development and how to handle sensitive issues, both before the assignment of a mentee and throughout the duration of the program. Although most program activities take place in the university setting, mentors are encouraged to develop group activities that may be off site. During these group activities, mentees are encouraged to reach out to other mentors with expertise in fields in which they are interested or need help (e.g., if one’s mentor is not familiar with a particular math subject, a mentee may reach out to a mentor from a math-related field for tutoring).
Peraj mentors are undergraduate students in Mexico who are nearing graduation and are recruited through their university’s social service program. Students have the option to serve as Peraj mentors for their yearlong social service requirement. Potential mentors undergo additional evaluation, which includes a review of their academic history, psychometric evaluations, and interviews, to determine if they qualify to work with children. Mentors are monitored and supervised by Peraj university personnel.
The program’s intentional focus on relationship building between an elementary school student and his/her mentor as a means to positively influence youth outcomes is consistent with Rhodes and colleagues’ (2006) model of youth mentoring. The goal of these supportive relationships is to engage students in developmental activities that will enable them to acquire the necessary assets to cope with individual and environmental risks. This model is also consistent with positive youth development models (Benson, Scales, Hamilton, and Sesma 2006).
Furthermore, the incorporation of several evidence-based program practices, including a rigorous mentor screening process, pre-match mentor training, and established expectations for length of relationship and frequency of contact is consistent with recommended benchmarks in the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring (Garringer et al. 2015).
Moreno-Candil and Garza (2017) found that children in the intervention group had a statistically significant lower risk of dropout than children in the comparison group (mean risk 2.12 versus 2.31, respectively) at the end of the school year.
Moreno-Candil and Garza (2017) evaluated the effect of the Peraj mentoring program on dropout risk in a quasi-experimental study among elementary school youth in Mexico. The final sample included 816 children (324 in the intervention group and 492 in the comparison group) at 10 program sites (universities) for whom pre- and post-data were available. Children in the comparison group attended the same elementary schools as children in the mentoring program. However, the study did not provide demographic characteristics of the intervention or comparison groups at baseline.
Youth dropout risk was assessed using the 80-item Peraj School Dropout Risk Questionnaire (PSDRQ). The questionnaire was designed to assess eight risk factors for dropping out of school, which were identified from a national survey that assessed the self-reported reasons that led to students’ decisions to leave school. These risk factors were 1) aggressive behavior, 2) negative self-concept, 3) lack of autonomy, 4) academic effort, 5) academic goals, 6) external locus of control, 7) lack of appreciation of school, and 8) disengagement from school. Overall dropout risk was scored by averaging the individual items in all eight areas (scored on a 5-point Likert scale), with higher scores indicating higher risk. The PDSRQ was administered to youth in the program as well as comparison group students at both the beginning (prior to start of mentoring activities) and end of the school year. To reduce the response burden on students, researchers created four different versions of the survey, each with 40 items (5 items from each dimension). The items were randomly ordered and randomly distributed among the four versions so that each item appeared on only two versions, and all forms had items in common. The four versions were then randomly distributed among participating sites for use in pre- and posttest assessments.
Dropout risk estimates were calculated for children in the intervention and comparison groups using hierarchical linear models, with program site (universities) and intervention group entered as random effects. T-tests were used to determine if the difference between the groups was statistically significant. Youths in the intervention and comparison groups did not significantly differ in dropout risk at pretest. No subgroup analyses were conducted.
Peraj is a certified program in the Mexican National Social Service System through which college students can fulfill their social service requirement. Peraj’s central office is responsible for promoting the program; developing funding; producing guidelines for recruitment, screening, matching, and activities between mentor and mentee; monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the program; and training mentor trainers and staff at program sites. Program sites (universities) coordinate the recruitment, selection, training, matching, and supervision of mentors and mentees; organize activities; and establish relationships with elementary schools.
Additional implementation information is available at the organization webpage: http://www.peraj.org/.
These sources were used in the development of the program profile:
Benson, Peter L., Peter Scales, Stephen Hamilton, and Arturo Sesma. 2006. “Positive Youth Development: Theory, Research, and Applications.” In R.M. Lerner. (ed.). Handbook of Child Psychology: Theoretical Models of Human Development
. Volume 1. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley & Sons, 894–941.https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470147658.chpsy0116
Garringer, M., Janis Kupersmidt, Jean E. Rhodes, Rebecca Stelter, and Tammy Tai. 2015. Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring (4th ed.)
. Boston, Mass.: MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership.
Rhodes, Jean E., Renée Spencer, Thomas E. Keller, Belle Liang, and Gil Noam. 2006. “A Model for the Influence of Mentoring Relationships on Youth Development.” Journal of Community Psychology