Graduate -> Mentor

Does your team let your alumni come back to the team as mentors?

If so long long before they can, if not right away?

You do know there is a search function? I’m fairly certain I’ve read a few threads about this topic.

Yes, we do, without delay. As our team has only competed four years, and there aren’t any colleges in Slidell, we haven’t had any “full time” mentors who are also alums. So far, we have considered all of our alums as “junior mentors”. I do recall other threads in which teams had a specific number of years between being a “junior mentor” and a “full mentor”. Four years or a bachelor’s degree seems a reasonable break point here - by then, there are usually no students on the team who attended high school with the mentor. That’s probably the practical break point - if any student considers a mentor to be a “near peer”, the mentor should be a “junior mentor”.

Just realize, college comes first. If you have a paper due the next day, and as boring as this sounds, your going to have to skip that meeting to get that paper done… If you plan on going to college, of course.

(mod hat on) I tried a couple of basic searches, and I couldn’t find one easily. So I’m letting it ride. (mod hat off)

On every single team I’ve been on, we’ve had a graduate turn right around and come back the next year. (I was one of them.) I do warn the kids (from experience) that it’s different and sometimes a little rough to make that transition, but we’ve been fortunate to have good hands among that crowd. What we entrust them with depends on their skills and the team’s needs; in two of the cases, they coached at least part of a regional as freshmen. Other times, they’ve just been good hands working with us.

We have a few alumni who come back to mentor. Although most of them go to school 2-3 hours away, they do some classes at the local community college to save money. School comes first but we have no rule saying they aren’t allowed to be there.

I’ve always recommended one year off after graduating… College is an important step in a person’s life, and you won’t get the full experience if you’re running back to high school every other day to build robots. That said, there’s nothing wrong with visiting once in a while - college students show up to help at our summer camp and around kickoff all the time - they’re home from school during those times anyways.

The biggest problem with going back to your own team to mentor is drawing that line between student and mentor. When you have a bunch of friends still on the team, it can make it very difficult to switch mindsets for everyone. Additionally, I have heard of incidents where a student comes back to mentor as a freshmen in college, and ends up romantically involved with a senior on the team - with only one year in age difference it may not seem like that big of a deal, but it crosses a rather serious line between mentor and student that can cause problems for the team and school administration.

This one is sticky for good reason.

Too bad FAHA isn’t on anymore. I think when it was removed, at LEAST two threads on this topic were removed. Brandon, any way you could make those threads reappear in the archive?

That being said, Billfred didn’t do much of a search. Using “college mentor team” as the search term, and doing a little digging at the old end of what was turned up… (links to for an added bonus) might have a few nuggets-- they’re there, you just have to find them

That might get you started.

From my experience as a student to mentor right after highschool, I would recommend that students interested in doing this either take a year off or if you are so dedicated to robotics that you can’t take a year off you don’t go to champs or any events that would interfere with school. I went to champs this year and coming back to school was a struggle and I ended up dropping one of my classes but was able to rebound on my other classes.

This one?

I usually use Google Search, gives better results.

I know a few teams that typically have a “one year off” rule. This rule says they won’t be accepting mentors who have just recently graduated from high school, suggesting they take one year off instead. I wholeheartedly agree with this rule as the transition from student to mentor can be a tough one. It’s not something a lot of people can do without first taking a break.

Also, some schools/districts prohibit volunteers under some age threshold. Know your administration’s volunteer policies and respect them.

As mentioned earlier, school(and/or work) comes first. College and the real world are far different from high school. Get yourself acclimated to the college/work schedule and time commitments before you assume you can do it alongside FIRST. I guarantee that it will take a larger chunk of your time and energy than you thought.

For a member who plans on mentoring their high school team after graduating, I advise them to take up to 3 to 4 years off before returning as a mentor. It is difficult to establish yourself as a mentor in the eyes of your former mentors and former teammates. In your former mentors’ eyes, you’re still a student. In your former teammates’(and often your friends) eyes, you’re still a peer. This is puts you in a difficult position as you aren’t quite viewed as a mentor, but you aren’t a student anymore.

For a member who plans on mentoring another team, I offer this advice: remember that this is a different team to the one you were on. The protocol, structure, and everything will be different. You need to accept that and be flexible to how your new team runs. You should show that you are willing to be a mentor of their team and not a transplant of your old team.

This advice is based off of my experiences as a mentor. Right out of high school, I decided to mentor both my old team and a new team in the area as well as several FTC teams. This was a HUGE time commitment that took a toll on my sanity. I am going into my third year of mentorship and I know I still have a lot to learn.

We have implemented a 1 year off rule.

This came about because of the new youth protection policy, and with this policy, we decided it needed to be policy.

We have had incidents in the past, where the graduate was a mentor and a student was a girlfriend. But there isn’t any leeway in school policy, or Youth policy where a person of position, has a relationship with a student.

We have had incidents where we have had recent graduates, sitting in a pit, with a student girl sitting on his lap. Completely harmless, but just a line that can’t be crossed.

We are hoping a year of separation, the recent graduates, have a little less bonding with the current team members, and come back with a little more maturity and understanding.

Time will tell.

It’s tough, you spend 4 years bonding as a team, when you come back with no separation, you come back with the mindset of a student, not a mentor/adult.

Even when there are no issues, school and First policy can be broken, and the fall out is painful, and it rips the team.

I’ll answer the OP in three distinct parts: for my current team, for my former team, and with regards to my personal opinion.

My current team (FRC 2667) actively encourages students who stay in the area to come back and help. There are two primary reasons I’ve observed for this: for one, one of the most active mentors is an alumni from our first year in 2008. He’s one of the most active and enthusiastic mentors on the team, and certainly the one who has sacrificed the most of his time, energy and money to help the team-- through college, he would drive back on weekends from Milwaukee, where he was attending school, in order to help the team. He, naturally, encourages graduating seniors to come back and help like he did. The second reason is that our team lacks in organized/invested/present mentors-- many take “shifts” working with the team during the week, meaning we have a different set of mentors every night. I’m personally not a fan of this, but having more people in the mix keeps the load lighter for everyone.

My old team, 2220, doesn’t really let alumni come back until they’re well out of high school. Our first alumnus mentor graduated the team in spring 2010, and only just started mentoring the team “fully” this past year-- after phasing himself in in 2014. This is also partially a function of the school-- 2220’s school tends to send more students further away for college, while 2667’s students tend to matriculate in Minnesota.

Personally, I’m in a bit of an odd position with regards to this. I generally don’t believe college students should mentor teams, which puts me in an odd position considering I just finished my first year of college mentoring both and FTC and an FRC team. How do I reconcile this? First, I asked myself why I wanted to mentor a team-- was it because I genuinely felt I could help them, or because I wanted to gain another year of being a student? Was I doing this because it was actually right, or was I convincing myself to do it for ulterior motives? The truth is, at the beginning of my freshman year I told myself that I wasn’t going to mentor or work with any team-- I was going to get involved with GOFIRST, volunteer at tournaments, and generally adjust to college life. I didn’t believe I was ready to mentor a team-- I was blessed to have incredible mentors on my high school team that set a bar higher than I felt I could achieve.

I managed to get two months into the school year before getting involved with a team.

I got pulled in the way I think plenty of mentors do-- I was asked to come in and talk to a new team (FTC 9205), which turned into coming back the next week to help with strategy, which turned into helping design, which turned into an entire season. Half way through FRC build season, I got pulled into FRC 2667, which is at the same school.

Frankly, I’m not sure I made the right choice mentoring my first year of college. It worked for me, and it worked for both of the teams I helped (both teams made it to their state tournaments), but I can think of so many ways it could have gone wrong. If I had a heavier schedule or more difficult classes, studying on the bus on the way to help my teams wouldn’t have been possible. If tournaments didn’t fall in the right places relatives to my quizzes and tests, it would have been impossible for me to make it to their regionals. I ended up in the right place, at the right time, with the right schedule, and if anything had been off, it wouldn’t have worked.

The key for me was realizing that I could not be the mentor I wanted to be the first year I worked with a team. Heck, I hesitate to say that what I did could even be called mentoring-- I was trying to do a combination of help the team, help the students grow as individuals, and help myself grow by learning how to and how not to mentor. Over the course of the year, I realized that why I wanted to be a mentor had very little to do with winning, and only a bit to do with building a robot-- I found value in mentoring because I felt I was genuinely positively impacting the students on the team’s lives, and looking back, I classify that as a valid reason for me to work with a team my freshman year of college. I may not be the theoretical best possible mentor for my team-- I’m too young, I live too far away, and I don’t have the technical expertise for most aspects of the robot, but I filled a role that needed to be filled, and positively impacted the team, the students, the mentors, and myself in my own small way, while still managing to have a great time in college and keeping good grades.

Personally, I’m a fan of skipping a year if at all possible (and yes, if you have better self control than I do, it is possible). But if you’re doing it for the right reasons, and the timing is right, and you’re comfortable and confident enough in yourself to handle it, it can work. Be very, very careful, though. When you stare into the team, the team too stares back. Don’t let a team consume your life in college.

I don’t think there’s a correct way of handling alumni mentoring-- it depends so much on the team’s situation and that of the alum to generalize. I think most healthy, consistent teams can deal without having alumni coming back immediately, but for some teams that can be the only thing keeping them from folding.

Some of our favorite mentors graduated a couple years ago. They are involved in a program where they work and go to school here in town, so when they’re not studying or working they come to meetings and mentor us. One of them is our drive coach and another brings us food, so we’re really like having both of them around. Especially the one who brings food :slight_smile:

I think what you’ve described of your own experience is a good case outcome of college students being mentors. One important thing that you didn’t bring out is that it also takes someone ready to step into that role; if you weren’t mature and level-headed enough, and focused, things may not have turned out so well. I think even within just a single team, there can be some alum who are ready to hit the ground running as a mentor for their own team or another, others who should take a year off, and others yet who should take more time off. Being a college mentor involves several dimensions of balancing act, and a number of different skills that one may not be used to practicing, and some people just aren’t ready for that as teenagers.

I think a big part of what good college mentors do is growing themselves as mentors; they have something to contribute from their prior experience with FIRST, but they’re obviously not contributing at the level of mentors who’ve been in industry for 20 years. They’re simultaneously learning more they can contribute at school, and learning to contribute more effectively by example of their fellow mentors. But they also have the experience of having been in high school recently, and can connect to the students differently, and can be impactful role models of a slightly different type.

1640 allows graduates to become mentors. By-in-large this has worked out well, but not all students make the student–>mentor transition painlessly (or successfully).

We’ve found that (maybe not so surprisingly) that students who exhibit strong drive and leadership skills make good mentors and transition more smoothly from one role to the other. If a student was already teaching and guiding others in their Junior and Senior years, the prospects for their becoming effective mentors is pretty good.

The Robolions (my old team) do not let grads come back as mentors for at least a year after they have graduated. We do this so that the team can get a new identity and start listening to the new leadership teams after all the old people have left. We had a case a couple years ago where an ex-captain came back as a mentor right after they graduated. The students on the team would try to put him in command as opposed to the new leadership team that was just moving in. As a mostly student run team, this was a headache for the new leadership involved and we ended up telling the guy to not come back for a year. Everything went smoothly after that.

It was not even that the guy was trying to take control, just that people defaulted to him as “leader”. So we put the alums away for at least a year so that the younger students find a new “leader” to listen to and develop on their own as a team.

My team allows and encourages students to come back as mentors. However, not every student is fit to be mentor right away. As someone stated in a previous reply, committed and mature students perform better as mentors. There are some students that cannot cope with studying a degree in engineering and also working 3 or more hours a day with a team; I have seen this.

I graduated from high school and my team lacked mentors. The headcoach of the team spoke with me and asked me to stay, I was not very sure at the time, because of what was said here at Chief Delphi about mentoring as a college student, but I gave it a shot. I turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. Right now I am about to start my third year of engineering (I study mechatronics engineering) and I have learnt a lot and I have had very great opportunities due to my direct involvement with the corporate sponsors of the team. Also, being able to inspire and help students grow is a great experience that is hard that you find in any other extracurricular activity during college.

However, it is important to mention that it has put some strain on me and during the semester of competition and my grades have not been as good as they could be and in a lot of situations I need some serious help from my friends to understand some things that I miss from my classes, but that has not been a big deal. Even though I have an advantage, my college and my ex-high school are in the exact same place, they are the same institution, so in order to go help my team I only need to go from one building to another. So, I have it easier than other college mentors.

I really think that college mentors are really important, here in Mexico a lot of teams rely on college students to work properly. Also, a college mentor is like an “older brother” to the students of the team and that kind of relation I have seen that it is beneficial to the student in order to get inspired. Every team is different but, I think that college mentors are a good thing to have. If the adult leaders of the team see that someone is mature and responsible enough to mentor, I would offer them the chance to do so.

(Sorry if I made some grammar mistake or something of the sort, English is not my native language)

So far our team hasn’t had any graduates come back and mentor mostly due to our team being relatively young. I think I’ll be the first graduate to return and mentor in some way.

At the moment I am planning on being sort of a “part-time” or “remote mentor” for my high school team 4761. The only reason I’m even thinking about doing this is because I’ll be on break during the first two or three weeks of build season and I’ll possibly be on spring break at the same time as one of the competitions we’re going to attend. If I didn’t have those breaks that would make it easy to work with my team, I don’t think I’d be mentoring. From there I’ll see how well I use my time during the breaks to help my team and see if I get too drawn into working remotely with the team when I’m back at school to the point where it affects my grades.

Since I’ll know most of the students who will be on the team next year, having been one of the team co-presidents this past year, I’m expecting and hoping my transition will be pretty easy.