Peer Mentoring Resources
For individuals seeking to learn more about peer mentoring and/or design new peer mentoring programs, the program and model descriptions that are provided below may assist in customizing approaches to meet specific community needs.
National Council on Independent Living
Per the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), peer support is a hallmark of the Independent Living Movement and a core service – both in statute and philosophy – of Centers for Independent Living. In this manner, peer mentoring is tied to self-advocacy in the community.
Centers for Independent Living (CILs) are community-based, cross-disability, non-profit organizations that are designed and operated by people with disabilities. CILs are unique in that they operate according to a strict philosophy of consumer control, wherein people with all types of disabilities directly govern and staff the organization. Centers for Independent Living Provide:
- Peer Support
- Information and Referral
- Individual and Systems Advocacy
- Independent Living Skills Training
There are 403 Centers for Independent Living (CILs) along with 330 branch offices and 56 Statewide Independent Living Councils (SILCs) in the United States.
Independent Living Research Utilization – Building an Effective Peer Support Program
In order to facilitate Peer Support training and programming at the CILs, the Building an Effective Peer Support Program course was provided by the national training and technical assistance project for centers for independent living (CIL-NET) and statewide independent living councils (SILC-NET). The IL-NET is operated by the Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU) Program at TIRR Memorial Hermann in partnership with the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) and the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL).
The course defines Peer Support Program as: “recruits, trains, assigns, and supervises a group of individuals with disabilities whose role it is specifically to provide either one-on-one or group support to other individuals with disabilities. This may include individuals who are paid or volunteers, excluding full or part-time staff who are hired to fill basic positions within their centers, who also have a disability.”
To learn more about design and implementation of effective peer support programs, access the Building an Effective Peer Support Program course.
Ability360 Peer Mentor Training Manual
Ability360 created a comprehensive peer mentoring training manual with supporting tools and appendices. The 124-page document includes a significant self- advocacy section.
The manual defines peer mentors as “people who have a disability and have successfully achieved independent living on their own. They are volunteers willing to assist others to achieve their own independent living goals.” Further, the description continues:
“A Peer Mentor is:
- Someone Who Cares About Your Dreams.
- Someone Who Is Willing To Spend Time And Effort To Help You Succeed.
- Someone Who Has Expertise, Experience And Resource Networks To Help You Meet Your Needs.
- Someone Who Has Reached Their Own Goals.
- Someone Who Is Willing To Be There To Talk To And Support You.
- Someone Who Is Willing To Share Themselves With You.
- Someone Who Is A Positive Thinker.”
National Mentoring Resource Center
The National Mentoring Resource Center, a program of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Program at the U.S. Department of Justice, has a Peer Mentoring Program Portal that offers a variety of resources supporting at-risk youth programming. Resources include:
Reviews of Specific Peer Mentoring Programs:
- Peer Group Connection’s program design includes high school peer leaders engaging with groups of freshmen mentees. Read the review and the accompanying insights for practitioners.
- The Cross-Age Peer Mentoring Program engages high school students as one-to-one mentors for middle and elementary school students. Read the review and the accompanying insights for practitioners.
- The Woodrock Youth Development Program combines peer mentoring with other supports as a substance abuse prevention intervention for at-risk youth. Read the review.
Reviews of Relevant Practices: Providing match support for mentors can be a relevant practice to ensure that peer mentors have the support and guidance they need to be successful. Check out the review of this practice and the accompanying insights for practitioners.
Blog Post: School-Based Peer Mentoring: A Powerful Tool to Help Close the Mentoring Gap discusses the impact of peer mentoring programs, like the Center for Supportive Schools’ Peer Group Connection model, on expanding mentoring in schools.
Webinar: Peer Mentoring: A Discussion with Experienced Practitioners, engages seasoned peer mentoring practitioners in a conversation about best practices for this model.
Implementation Resources: The Peer Mentoring Handbook provides recommended practices for teens and young adults to mentor younger students or children.
National Disability Mentoring Coalition Program Models
The objective of the National Disability Mentoring Coalition (NDMC) is to increase the awareness, quality, and impact of mentoring for individuals with disabilities across the nation. Member organizations share core values and align with the Coalition’s initiatives to streamline communication, standardize and systematize data collection, reduce duplication of efforts, increase mentoring opportunities, and improve outcomes for youth and adults with disabilities.
The NDMC created a Peer Mentoring Workgroup to share information and practices to help elevate peer mentoring as an offering in more communities and programs. The NDMC Peer Mentoring Workgroup provided the resources listed on this page.
Learn more about the National Disability Mentoring Coalition.
Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Peer and Family Support Program
The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation created the Peer & Family Support Program for people living with paralysis, as well as those who care for them, to connect for hope, support, and a way forward. Available across the country, the foundation’s free peer-to-peer network helps everyone, from newly paralyzed individuals and their family members to people who have lived with paralysis for some time, by offering the personalized information and resources needed to live a fulfilling life.
A Reeve certified peer mentor is someone who wants to make a difference by helping and supporting members of the paralysis community. The foundation identifies persons impacted by paralysis, thriving in life and able to demonstrate skills that empower others. Those individuals become peer mentors through expert training and certification and received ongoing information and support through a private online community.
Approximately 7,000 people have been helped by peer mentors located in 43 states with:
- Transitioning home from a rehab center;
- Researching job or educational opportunities;
- Getting information on health and secondary conditions;
- Coping with the responsibilities and emotional challenges of being a caregiver;
- Building confidence and motivation;
- Navigating local, state, and national resources; and,
- Understanding the progress of research.
DO-IT at the University of Washington
The DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) Center is dedicated to empowering people with disabilities through technology and education. It promotes awareness and accessibility—in both the classroom and the workplace—to maximize the potential of individuals with disabilities and make our communities more vibrant, diverse, and inclusive.
In DO-IT programming, mentors can help protégés explore career options, set academic and career goals, develop professional contacts, identify resources, strengthen interpersonal skills, and develop a sense of identity. They can guide young people through the transition from structured high school environments to less structured postsecondary environments.
Peers also offer some of the same benefits as mentors, including coaching, counseling, advice, information, encouragement, and role modeling. Peers are sometimes easier for young people to approach than adults and typically offer a higher degree of mutual assistance. Relationships with individuals, who are a year or two older, near-peers, can also help high schoolers learn about academic accommodations, work with professors, live independently, and make friends. Near-peers make short-term goals seem within reach. In addition, mentor, peer, and near-peer supporters can become empowered as they come to see themselves as contributors in their supportive roles with young people.
Learn more about DO-IT.
DREAM at the National Center for College Students with Disabilities
DREAM (Disability Rights, Education Activism, and Mentoring) is a national organization for and by college students with disabilities. DREAM is supported by the National Center for College Students with Disabilities (NCCSD), which is based at the Association on Higher Education And Disability (AHEAD).
DREAM was founded in 2011 by three college students with disabilities who led a thread on a national disability- and-higher-education-related listserv calling for networking between students and student-led organizations across the U.S. DREAM is centered on a student-led model with a Coordinator, Student Advisory Board, and Campus Chapters and Affiliates. In the first year of its Campus Chapters and Affiliates program, DREAM leaders supported the development of 8 new DREAM chapters and 12 affiliates on campuses across the U.S. and receive new inquiries weekly.
In addition to developing peer-to-peer communication, support, and interaction, DREAM incorporates disability mentoring informally and formally through national programs such as DREAM Mentor Monday monthly webinars and the Disabled and Proud student-led conference. DREAM is open to higher education students of all types and disabilities and explicitly includes people who have traditionally been marginalized or underrepresented in the disability or higher education communities to lead the organization’s programs and development. DREAM aims to develop disability culture and mentoring on college campuses, advance the study and inclusion of disability issues in higher education, and empower all students with disabilities to create local and national change.
Learn more about DREAM.
Youth Leadership Forum
The Youth Leadership Forum for Students with Disabilities (YLF) is a unique career leadership training program for high school juniors and seniors with disabilities. The program was developed by the California Governor’s Committee for Employment of Disabled Persons in 1992. The Office of Disability Employment Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor seeks to replicate this initiative around the nation. The YLF is implemented at the state level by state and local partners.
Learn more about YLF.
Survive or Thrive
Survive or Thrive, empowers, educates, and builds awareness in a culturally-responsive manner to unite the disability community and their allies in raising societal expectations and maximizing potential. This is accomplished through mentorship, formal workshops, experiential learning activities, virtual information sessions, and social events.
Survive or Thrive assists youth with disabilities and their allies in exploring, creating, and executing post- secondary goals. Goals include, but are not limited to, pursuing higher education, employment, volunteering, and independent living skills development.
Working with participants, Survive or Thrive:
- helps students with disabilities and their families plan post high school goals as they navigate along their paths toward adulthood;
- assists students in taking ownership of their lives as they develop self-advocacy skills to achieve their goals; and,
- fosters family cooperation and involvement with the participant.