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Mentoring through e-mail

May 21, 2001

RALEIGH, N.C. - In a world where one's time is consumed by work and family responsibilities, not everyone can spend an hour a week at a school mentoring a student. The answer to the dilemma of how to be both a good employee and a good citizen is increasingly becoming e-mentoring.

Through the use of e-mail, mentors are able to help with schoolwork, provide career advice and resolve personal problems by being another caring adult that a student can turn to.

"E-mentoring allows more frequency and communication," said Nicole Pride, coordinator of an IBM program started this year in 10 schools here. "It allows the IBM-ers to volunteer and make a difference and not interfere with their jobs."

Andrea Meier the University of North Carolina's School of Social Work said e-mentoring has many positives. But she said groups also need to make sure the mentors don't do anything improper.

consider the potential downsides.

"It doesn't mean emotional support can't occur," Meier said. "... The kids can expect more than what the adults are willing to give. That could be the most harmful thing."

IBM has addressed these concerns with its e-mentoring program, according to Pride.

IBM started an e-mentoring program this school year at 29 sites involving 5,330 students and 2,239 employees.

"We have a firm commitment to supporting K-12 education," Pride said. "That's the foundation of our philosophy. It's part of our philanthropic efforts."

Pride said middle schools were chosen because that's where students begin to lose their interest in math and science.To keep everything legitimate, Pride said the mentors and students underwent training. She said messages were read by both the student's teacher and another IBM employee. Face-to-face meetings required the teacher's approval.

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

by T. Keung Hui, Raleigh News & Observer. Copyright © 2001 Record Searchlight - The E.W. Scripps Co.


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