The U.S. Department of Educationís Student Mentoring Program, authorized under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2002, Section 4130, is a competitive federal grant program managed by the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools (OSDFS). It addresses the lack of supportive adults at critical junctures in the lives of students at risk by providing funds to schools and to community- and faithbased organizations to create school-based mentoring programs targeting children in grades 4–8.
The legislation authorizing the program permits program grantees to be responsible for a number of activities including identifying students for the program; recruiting, training and screening of potential mentors (including reference checks and criminal background checks) and supporting mentors through technical assistance and suggested programming. While specific mentoring activities are not mandated in the legislation, the program purpose description states that supported activities are those designed to: improve interpersonal relationships with peers, teachers, other adults and family members; increase personal responsibility and community involvement; discourage drug and alcohol use, use of weapons and other delinquency involvement; reduce dropout rates; and improve academic achievement.
An absolute priority of the program, as stipulated by OSDFS in their grant solicitation for the program, is its focus on the academic and social needs of at-risk students. In addition to setting the absolute priority, OSFDS, in their grant solicitation, also outlined a number of strategies underlying well-designed and effective school-based mentoring programs including: screening of all potential mentors including background checks; training and support for mentors and program staff on an ongoing basis; activities for mentors and students; and established procedures for supervising and monitoring of mentoring relationships.