School Bonding and Low-Income Students from Immigrant Families in a Peer-Mentoring Program

Can bilingual peer mentors foster feelings of attachment, commitment, and involvement in school in English language learners?

Many school districts face difficulties with adequately reaching out to and serving English language learner (ELL) immigrant populations to foster their school bonding and connectedness. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated social exclusion for low-income ELLs restricted to online-only education. Research suggests that immigrant and minority youth develop trusting relationships and social bonding when exposed to youth programs that bridge their home and school environments while drawing upon their voices, agency, and cultural identities. Compared to teachers, high school-aged bilingual mentors from immigrant families can establish close relationships built on shared concerns, understanding, and trust with ELL mentees. To examine the role of peer mentoring in developing bonding and connectedness among ELLs, the study will recruit and follow dyads of 15 high-achieving bilingual peer mentors (11th-12th graders) and 15 mainly Spanish-speaking ELLs (9th-11th graders) over an entire year (2020-2021) and, if they continue, through the following year (2021-2022). Mentors will be trained by University of Louisville pre-service teachers on structured mentoring components, namely tutoring on academic work, advising, institutional guidance, and providing opportunities to enhance school bonding in online (and possibly in-person) sessions. The team will observe, record, and transcribe at least five mentoring sessions per week. Additionally, mentors’ reflections on key topics directly after mentoring sessions will be collected and analyzed. The team will also interview mentors, mentees, and the high school’s ELL teachers in the winter and spring each year of data collection. The study will provide an opportunity to assess peer mentor and mentees’ perceived strengths and weaknesses of online mentoring and how their perceptions may change over time.