Role Models and Mentors

From Women and Girls Lead, Vol. 3: Women, Girls, & the Criminal Justice System collection, lesson plan 7 of 7

Time: (60-90 minutes + assignment)

Essential Question: What makes a role model and a good mentor?

Film modules and activities adapted from the films Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story and Troop 1500

Purpose of the Lesson: The value of mentoring is emerging as a major, if not crucial, advantage in overcoming adversity and reaching one’s full potential. Mentoring organizations are expanding their reach throughout the country with the support of major foundations and the federal government. In this lesson, students consider what a good mentor looks like and what possibilities exist for themselves and other at-risk girls to be role models. At the end of the lesson, they will be asked to find a mentor and complete a culminating lesson that integrates learning points from the entire curriculum.

Objectives: * Analyze the ability of women and girls in the criminal justice system to be mentors * Examine resources for securing a mentor * Explore ways to be mentors or role models for younger girls * Write a letter to and contact a prospective mentor

Skills: Stating and supporting opinions in class discussion and in writing; critical listening, reading and viewing; writing; note taking and oral presentation; identifying resources

Materials: Note: All Teacher and Student Handouts can be downloaded by clicking on “Download materials” button at the left of this page

Have students write a brief description of someone they know and admire. Include details like the person’s personality, background, accomplishments, and the student's connection to him or her. Post descriptions around the room and have students circulate and read them.

Tell students that this lesson is about the importance of having a mentor. They will now listen to a story titled “Rising Above Low Expectations,” which has a section about how to choose a mentor. Ask students to take notes on the suggestions given for finding a mentor. Review students' notes after the story and ask students what other suggestions they would add to the list.

Give students an opportunity to talk about the mentors in their lives: Who are they? How did the students meet them? What qualities do they have? How have they mentored the students?

Watch "Film Module 7: Role Models and Mentors." Reintroduce the films Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story and Troop 1500 using the "About the Films" and "Filmmaker Statement" subsections included in the "Getting Started" section. Students should take notes on leadership and mentor qualities they see in Cyntoia and in the mothers of the girls in Troop 1500. Review students' notes after viewing the module and use these questions for further discussion: * Tell students that Cyntoia attends college classes and responds to the letters of young girls who have seen the film. Ask the class what other opportunities Cyntoia may have to mentor girls in similar situations. * Cyntoia is serving a life sentence and will not be eligible for parole for 53 years. How would you describe her spirit and attitude at the end of the module when she reflects on her situation? * Ida gets her GED and it’s a pretty big deal. Why do you think that is? What impact might it have on her daughter, Jessica? * Is Ida a good role model for Jessica? What more can she do as a role model for her daughter and for other women in her situation? * What potential do you have to be a role model and inspiration for someone else?


Read the article “The Value of Mentoring” with your class.

Discuss the following questions: * The article talks about a range of benefits of mentoring. Which benefits do you think are the most significant or most applicable to your life? * The article says about kids aged nine to 15 that “this is also the age bracket during which preventative intervention is most successful and youth are most capable of envisioning a positive future and plotting the steps they need to take to reach their goals.” Is that true in your experience? Do you think there’s an age when it’s too late to change? * The article references a study that shows that kids who are mentored are 52 percent less likely to miss a day of school. Why do you think that is? * Use this link with students to find mentors in your area. You may want to print out the results and copy them for students.

Assignment: Find a Mentor

Choose four student volunteers to read the stories about the experience of mentoring.

Ask students to write a letter to a prospective mentor about who they are and what they would like to get out of a mentoring relationship. Have students pair up to read and edit each other's letters. Using the information you provided above as well as the following additional resources, have students contact mentoring organizations in their communities:

Culminating Activity for Entire Curriculum

Directions: In previous lessons, students have considered a range of issues relating to women and girls impacted by the criminal justice system. In the culminating lesson, they have an opportunity to pull together their knowledge and apply it to the larger questions of leadership and empowerment. Students should choose one of the options below to complete. The class can then choose a variety of ways to “publish” their work, from creating editorials in a class newspaper to a performance of the pieces to a wider audience. One online example can be found at PBS NewsHour.

Option 1: Students will write a persuasive essay (or another type of piece such as a skit, a public service announcement, a short radio piece, or a poem) responding to the guiding question: “How can girls impacted by the criminal justice system be leaders?” They will be required to draw on evidence from the preceding lessons, including their own personal experiences, those of their classmates, and those of the participants in the film. Teachers can then choose a variety of ways to “publish” the essays, from creating editorials in a class newspaper to a performance of the pieces to a wider audience.

Option 2: Profile or interview someone in your community who has overcome difficult odds and is now a leader or role model. Chronicle how this person was able to turn her life around and what she is doing now to make a difference. Profiles can be posted at or other websites to share with others.

Option 3: There is a stigma associated with being a “troubled teen,” an “at-risk teen,” or a “juvenile delinquent.” The prison population explosion has created a whole new subset of people living in the shadows, living with the shame (and the barriers) that come with being associated with the criminal justice system. Taking a cue from other marginalized groups like illegal immigrants, gays, and people with autism, students will create a “coming out” piece to counter the negative images associated with their status. The piece should be one to two written pages and if possible, digitally recorded.

See these resources for examples and inspiration:

  1. Watch the film Racing for Time, a true story about a girls' track team in a juvenile facility in Texas. Information on the film can be found here.

    Discuss the film using these guiding prompts:

  2. Read "Teens Run DC Mentoring Program Perseveres at Cardozo High" in The Washington Post with your students. In small groups, have students identify what they consider to be the five most important points of the article. Use those points to create discussion questions for the class. Lead a discussion of the article using one or more discussion questions from each group.

  3. Learn about the mentoring program Friends of the Children NY by using the resources below. Make a list of the things that make this different from most mentoring programs. Discuss and debate whether this paid model is more effective than traditional volunteer models like Big Brothers Big Sisters.

  • Film module:
    Jessica and Ida
  • Film module:
    Cyntoia Reflects
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