top of page

What is a mentor?

A mentor is a person or friend who guides a less experienced person by building trust and modeling positive behaviors.  An effective mentor understands that his or her role is to be dependable, engaged, authentic, and tuned into the needs of the mentee.

Today, most youth development organizations recognize the importance of a child having a caring responsible adult in their lives.  For children who come from less than ideal circumstances, mentoring can be a critical ingredient towards positive youth outcomes.

Matching the cadets with a caring, responsible volunteer mentor is one of the most critical components of the Sunburst Youth Academy experience.  Teachers, coaches, counselors, neighbors, family friends, ministers are great sources to start with when looking for a mentor.  The mentoring relationship begins in the Residential Phase (first 5 1/2 months) and continues for a full year during the Post-Residential Phase of the program. 

Applicants are required to identify a mentor prior to starting the academy.  Sunburst does not provide mentors for students nor do we maintain a mentor pool.   Mentors can be anyone who meets the eligibility requirements.   

Have you been asked to be a mentor for a Sunburst cadet or applicant?  If so, you should possess some of the following characteristics:  Good listener, honest, nonjudgmental, able to network and find resources, willing to devote time to developing others, good communication skills.  Mentor applicants must also be able to meet our basic mentor eligibility qualifications.

Mentor Eligibility Requirements

  • Must be at least 25 years old (exceptions can be made for 23/24 year old applicants)

  • Gainfully employed, in school, or retired

  • Same gender as student (exceptions made on case by case basis)

  • Commit to the entire 17 1/2 month program

  • Must pass a Department of Justice background check.

  • Cannot be an immediate family member or live in the same household

  • Reasonable geographic proximity (distance acceptable by mentor and cadet)

Basic Mentor Disqualifications

  • Convicted of a sexual related crime

  • Crimes against children 

  • Any violent criminal history

  • DUI's within the last 5 years

How does a mentor submit an application?

Once a mentor has been identified, he or she must fill out the online mentor application by clicking on the provided link.  Once it has been submitted, it will be included in the student's application file.

What can a mentor expect?

Once a student has been accepted into the program, a case manager will reach out to the mentor and begin the background check and schedule the mentor training.  All mentor training is currently being conducted online in order to maintain a safe, sterile environment for the students at the academy during the COVID 19 Pandemic.

Mentors will communicate regularly with the students throughout the residential phase to develop and strengthen the relationship.  Zoom and telephone calls will be conducted between the mentor and mentee throughout the residential phase.  Primary communication will be through letter writing.  It is strongly suggested that mentors write their cadet routinely with words of encouragement and motivation.  Together, they will begin to develop short term, long term, and intermediate goals for the cadet.  The PRAP (Post Residential Action Plan) is an important step in providing a clear and concise map of what a student's future looks like.  Whether it be finishing high school, attending college, technical school, job or career pathways, the student and mentor will identify any obstacles that must be overcome, resources needed, and steps necessary to accomplish the plan set in place.

Following graduation from the academy (residential phase), the cadet and mentor relationship continues for the next 12 months (post residential phase).  Throughout the post residential phase the cadet and mentor are expected to meet (via email, in person, phone, zoom) for a minimum of 4 hours monthly.  The mentor will additionally communicate monthly with the case manager to report the mentee's progress (via email, phone call, social media, or online mentor reporting).  


Any significant change in the cadet's progress should be immediately reported to the case manager to develop a course of action.  The case manager/mentor support system is vital to continuing a cadet's progress in the post residential phase.  Remember, the hard work really begins for a cadet in the post residential phase.  While at Sunburst, a cadet is surrounded with a multitude of support systems and staff.  When a cadet graduates from the academy, he or she is expected to return to the same environment in which many were unsuccessful, and apply all of the valuable life coping skills, tools and lessons acquired at Sunburst into their personal lives.  For some, this can be more challenging than others.  This is why we thoroughly vet everyone who applies to become a mentor.  It can be one of the most important factors in a graduate's continued progress.


For additional questions, concerns or comments, please email the Case Manager Coordinator directly at

bottom of page