DO-IT Mentors

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Helping Young People Prepare for Their Future

This publication shares guidelines for mentors in the DO-IT programs.

What is a DO-IT Mentor?

Most of us can think of people in our lives, more experienced than ourselves, who taught us something new, offered advice, presented a challenge, initiated friendship, or simply expressed an interest in our development as a person. They helped us negotiate an uphill path or find an entirely new path to a goal in our academic, career, or personal lives. They showed us a world larger than our neighborhood. They pointed out talents that we hadn't noticed in ourselves and stimulated ideas about what we might be able to accomplish. They nudged us when we needed a nudge.

Adult mentors are an important part of the DO-IT team. DO-IT Mentors are college students, faculty, and professionals in a wide variety of career fields, many with disabilities themselves. Protégés are participants in the DO-IT Scholars or Pals programs. Most mentoring in DO-IT takes place on the Internet. Electronic communication eliminates the challenges imposed by time, distance, and disability that are characteristic of in-person mentoring. Frequent electronic communications and personal contacts bring DO-IT participants together with Mentors to facilitate academic, career, and personal achievements.

As a Mentor you offer:

How to be a Mentor

DO-IT facilitates communication in small groups through the use of electronic discussion lists. For example, one group includes both Mentors and protégés who are blind. They discuss common interests and concerns such as independent living, speech, and Braille output systems for computers, and options for displaying images and mathematical expressions. Introducing protégés to Mentors with similar disabilities is a strength of the DO-IT program.

As a Mentor, you are a valuable resource to your protégés. As a guide, counselor, and friend, you inspire and facilitate academic, career, and personal achievements. The developmental transitions faced by DO-IT Scholars and Pals in each of these areas are enriched by your experience, wisdom, and guidance.

Your role as a Mentor is a mix of friend and teacher. Relationships developed with your protégés become channels for the passage of information, advice, challenges, opportunities, and support with the ultimate goals of facilitating achievement and having fun.

How is this accomplished? There are probably as many mentoring styles as there are personality types and no one can be everything to one person. Each DO-IT protégé benefits from contact with several Mentors. The challenge and fun of mentoring is developing your own personal style for sharing the special strengths and skills you have to offer.

Following are a few suggestions for getting started and staying active as a DO-IT Mentor. DO-IT staff welcome your ideas for suggestions to pass on to future Mentors. Happy Mentoring!

Getting Started

Staying Active

All Mentors are volunteers and we know that it takes a lot of time. The following are some guidelines to follow when considering whether you have the time and the willingness to be a DO-IT Mentor.

Keeping Our Young People Safe

The Internet is a sea filled with adventure. By sailing the waters we can explore the world, unlock mysteries, and meet new people. But like any sea it has dangerous elements as well. Safety is an important issue for anyone using the Internet but even more so for minors. It is important that we teach our young people how to identify potential danger and avoid it.

DO-IT promotes group mentoring, where groups of Mentors and protégés discuss ideas and a DO-IT staff member is always part of the discussion. Participants are told not to give out personal information to people they do not already know and not to respond to electronic messages that they receive from anyone if they are not comfortable with the content. They should immediately report offensive or troubling email messages to their parents and DO-IT staff.

For more information about the safety of minors on the Internet we suggest you read the publication Child Safety on the Information Highway by Lawrence J. Magid, 1998, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at

Key Electronic Resources

About DO-IT

DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) serves to increase the successful participation of individuals with disabilities in challenging academic programs such as those in science, engineering, mathematics, and technology. Primary funding for DO-IT is provided by the National Science Foundation, the State of Washington, and the U.S. Department of Education. DO-IT is a collaboration of UW Information Technology and the Colleges of Engineering and Education at the University of Washington.

To order free publications or newsletters use the DO-IT Publications Order Form; to order videos and training materials use the Videos, Books and Comprehensive Training Materials Order Form.

For further information, to be placed on the DO-IT mailing list, request materials in an alternate format, or to make comments or suggestions about DO-IT publications or web pages contact:

University of Washington
Box 354842
Seattle, WA 98195-4842
206-685-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
888-972-DOIT (3648) (voice/TTY)
206-221-4171 (fax)
509-328-9331 (voice/TTY) Spokane

Founder and Director: Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D.

DO-IT Funding and Partners


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant #9800324. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Much of the content of this publication has been reproduced, with permission, in other publications, including the following:

Burgstahler, S. (1997). Peer support: What role can the Internet play? Journal of Information Technology and Disabilities, 4(4),

Burgstahler, S., & Cronheim, D. (1999). Opening doors through mentoring: One program's experiences using the Internet. Journal of Information Technology and Disabilities, 6(1-2).

Burgstahler, S., & Cronheim, D. (2001). Supporting peer-peer and mentor-protege relationships on the Internet. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 34(1), pp. 59-74.

Copyright © 2012, 2010, 2008, 2006, 2002, 1994, University of Washington. Permission is granted to copy these materials for educational, noncommercial purposes provided the source is acknowledged.