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Mentoring Programs

Michelle Sherbondy, a deaf USDA employee, is kneeling and demonstrating a face-to-face communicator to a young man in a wheelchair.  Another young man sits behind them watching the demo of how a deaf person and hearing person can communicate using the tool.

USDA Mentoring Program

USDA is establishing a mentoring culture throughout the Department for three reasons.

  • Listening Sessions conducted in 2010 indicated employee demand for mentoring.
  • There are numerous benefits of a formal mentoring program including:
    • Improving succession planning by developing employees;
    • Helping pass knowledge from one generation of workers to another;
    • Helping employees develop as professionals by improving their skills in translating values and strategies into productive actions; developing new and/or different perspectives; obtaining assistance for new and innovative ideas, demonstrating their strengths and exploring potential, and increasing career networks and receiving greater exposure within the Agency or the Department;
    • Improving retention of existing employees;
    • Enhancing recruiting of new employees;
    • Helping employees by communicating the agency’s unwritten behavioral norms and standards; and,
    • Helping mentors continue to develop as leaders.
  • Some training and development programs require a formal mentoring component by federal regulation (e.g., Presidential Management Fellows Program, Senior Executive Candidate Development Program). USDA includes mentoring as one of many employee development activities such as the use of individual development plans, details and rotational assignments, and formal study and/or training and developmental assignments.

The USDA Mentoring Coodinator Guide, USDA Mentoring Agreement, USDA Mentor Guide and USDA Protege Guide are available for download at the bottom of this page.

For more information, visit the USDA Mentoring Program web page, read the USDA Mentoring Program Departmental Regulation.  Authorized USDA employees may also visit the USDA Mentoring Portal.            


Federal Agency Mentoring Program & Resources

Office of Personnel Management

Department of Labor's Office of Disablity Employment Policy

Federal Mentoring Programs

Do you operate a Federal Mentoring Program?  Please email your Federal Mentoring Program information to be added to the Toolkit Resource List.


Community Disability Mentoring Programs

These resources are provided as examples of mentoring programs that are mostly community or school based in nature.  USDA and other federal agencies, along with industry and state and local government partners, can consider these following mentoring programs to graft into current disability inclusion strategies.

  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
    • Entry Point!  Entry Point! identifies and recruits students with apparent and non-apparent disabilities studying in science, engineering, mathematics, computer science, and some fields of business for internship and co-op opportunities.
  • American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)
    • Disability Mentoring Day  Disability Mentoring Day (DMD) is a large-scale national effort coordinated by AAPD to promote career development for students and job-seekers with disabilities through hands-on career exploration and ongoing mentoring relationships. While DMD has been and continues to be officially launched the third Wednesday of each October during National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), the foundation of the program has expanded from a one-day event to a year-round initiative across the country. DMD was founded in 1999 through a White House initiative with less than three-dozen students participating in increasing the awareness of NDEAM. Since that event, DMD has springboarded from a one day event for a small group of students to an extensive national mentoring program for young professionals with disabilities across the United States, territories, and abroad.
    • The Disability Mentoring Day Youth Transitions Pipeline (Pipeline) aimed to increase positive employment outcomes for youth with disabilities as they transitioned out of high school. The goal of the Pipeline was to provide students with disabilities with the skills, resources, and networks to successfully transition from high school to the workforce. Employment opportunities mean economic self-sufficiency and independence for people with disabilities. This one-year initiative, funded by the Walmart Foundation, builds on the ideals of Disability Mentoring Day, a national day of job-shadowing and mentoring held each October, to support youth with disabilities as they transition out of high school and into the workforce or post-secondary education. The Pipeline was active from May 2016 through April 2017 in three communities across the United States, where it worked closely with a center for independent living (CIL) in each community. The DMD Youth Transitions Pipeline is a multi-tier program that will reach high school students with disabilities through community resources, skill building workshops, peer-to-peer programming, mentoring, job shadowing, internships, and more.
  • Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN)
    • Autism Campus Inclusion Summer Leadership Academy  The Autism Campus Inclusion (ACI) Summer Leadership Academy, a project of the Autism Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) made possible with the support of the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation and the HSC Foundation, prepares Autistic students to create systems change on their college campuses. Participants acquire valuable skills in community organizing, policy formation, and grassroots & campus-based activism. Alumni receive support and technical assistance in implementing their advocacy goals following the training.
  • BroadFutures
    • Peer Mentors Program  BroadFutures provides holistic training, mentoring and meaningful paid transitional work experiences for young adults with learning disabilities to empower their potential for positive and successful futures. As part of a systematic approach to guarantee objective success, BroadFutures will engage mentors to supervise, support and act as effective liaisons between the interns and the employer.
  • Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities (COSD)
    • FULL ACCESS Student Summits are regional educational and networking events for students with disabilities and employers to become more comfortable with one another. The purpose of FULL ACCESS is to bring together up to sixty college students or recent alumni with disabilities and ten select employers for a two half-day networking and education summit. The students are those who are attending or have attended colleges and universities in a specific region or state area.The primary goals of the Summit are to have college students and recent alumni with disabilities to be comfortable when talking with employers and for employers to have the first-hand experience with people with disabilities to help keep this population in the forefront of their minds when developing diversity recruitment plans.
    • Campus to Careers Pilot COSD and the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Work Without Limits initiative have partnered with the National Organization on Disability (NOD) in an effort to bring higher education professionals and employers together in Boston, to both identify more employment opportunities for students with disabilities and to develop new methods of college recruiting to address the issue long-term. The Coca-Cola Foundation is supporting the three-year initiative. 
  • Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation
    • Peer and Family Support Program For people living with paralysis and their family members or caregivers, learning to navigate their changing world can be challenging and overwhelming at times. That's why 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 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 you need to live a fulfilling life. Approximately 4,000 people have been helped in 39 states!
  • Easterseals
    • The Easterseals Thrive program facilitates personal growth and empowerment for women with disabilities during life transitions. During these challenging periods, the most valuable sources of encouragement come from those who have experience. The Thrive book club is just one platform for adults to connect with younger women by sharing their personal stories, from their first heartbreaks and first loves, to first jobs.
    • Many Easterseals affiliates also offering mentoring programs, including Easterseals Central California, Greater Houston, Gulf CoastMassachusetts, and Minnsesota.
  • Eye to Eye
    • Eye to Eye is a network of 60 local chapters of public and private schools, colleges, universities, and local businesses, working together to provide mentor/mentee experiences for students labeled with language, reading, and math based learning disabilities (LD) and/or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This unique program works to unlock the greatness in the 1 in 5 who learn differently. Learn what mentors and mentees say they get out of Eye to Eye and the impact on their communities by visitng Outcomes.
  • Florida Atlantic Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD)
    • FAU Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) provides expert consulting, training and support, at no charge, for people with autism and related disabilities, their families, employers, the professionals and community and governmental agencies serving them.
    • Interest and Relationship Impacting Social Engagement and Employment (iRISE2) Mentoring Program serves youth with autism and related disabilities. The goal of the program is to help these youth reach their full potential for personal development and independence, while enriching their social-cognitive capacity through interest-based mentoring. Protégés are matched with a trained mentor that will help them address the challenging issues related to building positive, social relationships with family and peers. Matches are encouraged to explore the functional applications of their protégé’s special interest and the possible career opportunities that can contribute and lead to a life of high self-esteem and independence. Matches are free to explore the community and its beaches, parks, museums, libraries, cultural festivals and any other activities throughout Palm Beach County that complement the interest of their protégé.
  • Great Life Mentoring 
    • Great Life Mentoring is part of Columbia River Mental Health Services, the largest behavioral healthcare provider in Clark County, Washington.  Greal Life works with all organizations providing behavioral health services to children in the their community. The Program is rooted in the 4Results Model (established in 2000), the first youth mentoring program of its kind – and an award-winning Promising Practice that’s proven to get results. Youth served by Great Life Mentoring are between the ages of 7 and 18 who reside in Clark County, Washington, receive government-funded healthcare, and have experienced trauma or face other circumstances that impact their everyday functioning. What helps them most? A consistent, trustworthy adult to help them form healthy relationships and behaviors that can last a lifetime.
  • Institute for Educational Leadership
    • Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program (RAMP) operates in 11 communities across the country to serve youth, including those with disabilities, involved in or at risk of becoming involved in the juvenile justice system. RAMP™ is a career-focused mentoring program with a particular emphasis on careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.  Watch the RAMP Overview or General Audiences video.
    • The Right Turn Career-Focused Transition Initiative (Right Turn) provides a career development process for youth that are involved with or at risk of becoming involved with the juvenile justice system. Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (DOL-ETA), Right Turn is being implemented in high-crime, high poverty communities across the country by non-profit and local organizations with expertise in career development, education, mentoring, youth development, juvenile justice, and disability.
  • Massachusetts Commission for the Blind
    • Linking Expertise and Networking for Success (LENS) Program  The objective of the MCB mentoring program Project L.E.N.S. (Linking Expertise and Networking for Success) is to develop and sustain professional mentoring relationships between MCB vocational rehabilitation (VR) consumers, particularly transition-age youth, who are actively seeking employment and/or involved in career exploration, and mentors who are blind, with the goal of maximizing employment outcomes.
  • National Council on Independent Living
    • Centers for Independent Living 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 in providing Peer Support, Information & Referral, Individual & Systems Advocacy, Independent Living Skills, and Transition services. The Peer Support Program at the 403 CILs around the nation offers a variety of programming, including many with mentoring programs. 
  • Partners for Youth with Disabilities 
    • PYD's Mentor Match Program is a one-to-one, community-based mentoring program. This program is open to any youth with a disability between the ages of 6 and 24 who lives within the MA-128 belt surrounding Boston. Our mentors serve as an extra friend and support for their mentees, helping them work on personal goals while also having fun.
    • Making Healthy Connections is a group mentoring program for youth with disabilities between the ages of 14 and 22. Group sessions focus on helping youth understand their health care needs, and involve skills trainings, guest speaker presentations, and adaptive recreational activities.
    • The PYD eMentoring Platform a new, fully inclusive online mentoring platform designed by Partners for Youth with Disabilities and Thunder Media. It is available for use by organizations that would like an accessible, online platform to host their mentoring programming.
  • PolicyWorks
    • Bridging the Gap from College to Careers Bridging the Gap from College to Careers (C2C) is a Kessler Foundation-funded initiative that aims to improve the employment rate of college graduates with disabilities who have a bachelor’s degree or higher. In January 2014, PolicyWorks began work on this initiative with collaborative partners San Diego State University, Paul Hippolitus and the University of California at Berkeley and California State University/Fullerton. Professional Development and Disability, an instructor-led online course that teaches students and clients with disabilities the principles and practices associated with successful employment seeking and advancing strategies, is a cornerstone of this effort. The course is available to colleges, universities and other non-profit organizations to use with students and young people in other settings. 
    • Peer MentoringWorks is a 21-hour online training program for the certification of peer mentors working with transition-aged youth in pre-employment programs. The model developed for Florida VR (FL VR) in concert with Florida Atlantic University, the Disability Center, the Stand Among Friends program and BF Duncan will provide both training to the mentor and also to the project coordinators who will supervise the programs for service providers. It is FL VR’s intent to also have all staff recertified at certain intervals.
  • Project SEARCH
    • Project SEARCH was developed in 1996 at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, a research environment that fosters visionary thinking and innovation. The Project SEARCH High School Transition Program is now at over 300 sites across the United States and Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, and Australia. Project SEARCH's primary objective is to secure competitive employment for people with disabilities through the internship program that develops Co-Worker Connections through a department mentor and the high school student with a developmental disability. The mentor interacts with the instructor, job coaches, and the student as a consistent source of guidance and feedback. Students spend approximately five hours each day at the internships including a thirty minute lunch.
  • US Business Leadership Network (USBLN) 
    • The USBLN Rising Leaders Mentoring Program is a six month career mentoring opportunity for up to 125 college students, recent graduates with disabilities and disabled veterans through linkages to business professionals from USBLN partner companies. The Rising Leaders Mentoring Program brings together employers and college students and recent graduates with disabilities, including veterans, in a mutually beneficial way. Mentees meet and interact with business professionals in their field of study or area of interest and whom they would not otherwise have access to.
  • Vanderbilt University
    • Next Steps at Vanderbilt is a 2-year inclusive higher education program committed to providing students with intellectual disabilities inclusive, transformational postsecondary education in academics, social and career development, and independent living, while honoring equality, compassion, and excellence in all endeavors.  One component of the Next Steps program is the Peer Mentor, or Ambassadore Program.  The peer mentors (Ambassadores) are the backbone of Next Steps at Vanderbilt, as they provide the majority of the individualized support the students receive on a daily basis. These peer mentors are undergraduate and graduate students who establish one-on-one relationships with the Next Steps students. Their commitment to the Next Steps students is apparent when it is estimated that 8,400 hours were spent together during the 2015-16 academic year for academic, workout, lunch and daily planning mentor roles.