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Do you ever wonder what it would be like to dramatically change a child’s life? Knowing that you can be a positive difference to a child who does not have many people to look up to or who struggle to see their own potential?
Establishing positive development in youth is important to a child to grow successfully in their social, emotional, and physical development. Partners Mentoring Youth is an organization in Northern Colorado that encourages mentors to guide youth ages 7-17 to a successful life in the future, and to help them learn how to control and gain awareness of themselves. Partners Mentoring Youth is a part of the collective impact Kids on Track collaborative working group, led by United Way of Larimer County.
January is National Mentoring Month. According to Vanessa Lewis, Community Engagement Manager at Partners Mentoring Youth, it is a month to recognize quality impact, and encourage mentors to guide youth down a successful path.
“Mentoring is huge. Mentors provide kids with developmental tools that help round out the child’s assets, so that they can have a healthy and productive life,” says Lewis.
Because of all the hard work their mentors have been putting in to make a difference in the community, Partners Mentoring Youth will host a social to recognize the mentors in Fort Collins, Greeley, and Estes Park. Lewis stated that National Mentoring Month increases awareness of the benefits of mentoring. It shows the importance of what it means to be a mentor to a child who needs guidance in their life.
Mentors can guide youth to positive social interactions because children will develop natural social skills and shape their own strong relationships by meeting one-on-one with their mentor and learning those basic skills. At the same time, having strong support and structure when needed is important to a child learning how to grasp these skills.
According to Lewis, emotional support is offered because there are kids who come from great families, but some families have limited capacity to provide enough support. The mentors are an outlet for the child to express themselves.
Mentorship can also have a lasting impact further down the line. Michael Page, a leading professional recruitment consultancy, says “Having the guidance, encouragement and support of a trusted and experienced mentor can provide a mentee with a broad range of personal and professional benefits, which ultimately lead to improved performance in the workplace.”
Mentors are role models, who teach the importance of education and can connect with a child by offering their support. They are encouraged to provide resources for a child to learn not only the value of education, but how to make education a priority in their life.
Mental health is a primary concern, and there are program staff at Partners Mentoring Youth to help assist the mentors in this area. There are many different challenges the youth may face, including substance abuse issues. Mentoring can help to prevent these issues from occurring in the first place. According to Youth.gov, “6.2 percent of youth with mentors initiated drug use compared to 11.4 percent of their peers without mentors, and 19.4 percent initiated alcohol use compared to 26.7 percent.”
According to Lewis, mentors do not have to be trained or experts in mental health to work with the children in the program, even those who are struggling with mental health issues. Just by being themselves, being consistent, and providing a positive presence in a youth’s life, mentors can help youth get through challenges they face in the future.
Partners Mentoring Youth has been in the community for the past 39 years helping youth grasp skills through their experiences with their mentors and positive habits they will stick with throughout their lives. A 3rd party evaluation is conducted by Partners Mentoring Youth to track progress made in the mentorships, revealing the true impact being made on the youth.
“At Partners, the youth gains a supportive mentoring relationship, which translates into an opportunity to communicate and talk through their challenges, seek support from outside their natural network, and develop skills that make them more resilient,” says Lewis.
There are both community-based and school-based mentorship programs. The community-based allows for the Junior and Senior Partner to be more flexible with their schedule and meet for about three hours a week. The school-based program is active for a whole school year and the mentor meets with the Junior Partner for about an hour a week.
Community-based mentorships require a commitment of a year from both the mentor and mentee, and school-based programs require a commitment of one school year. Lewis stated that one year allows for best practices to develop such as trust and the basics of friendship. Establishing trust is important to a child because it affects their willingness to open up and allow their mentor to be someone the child can count on.
“Partners Mentoring Youth makes the community more vibrant in having inter-generational relationship development and an opportunity for adults to have a chance to volunteer,” says Lewis.
70% of mentorships continue past a one year commitment. Some of these mentorships last eight to 11 years, while other mentor relationships last a few years, Lewis stated. Regardless of the time frame, each mentor has made a positive impact on every child who has gone through the program.
Partners Mentoring Youth originally started out as an intervention program for children in juvenile delinquency, but progressed to a mentorship and prevention program. “Having a mentoring program touches on huge developmental assets, so children are able to develop those. It helps keep them from the intervention point and sets them up for success early on,” says Lewis.
In 2016, Partners Mentoring Youth had 450 youth in the program and around 350 mentors across the three locations. Their goal for 2017 is to reach nearly 500 youth, while still gaining more mentors to be positive role models and leaders for the youth involved in the program.
If you are interested in volunteering or learning more about Partners Mentoring Youth, visit their website. Or join Partners for a social at Odell Brewing Company on January 26th from 4:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. Click here for more information.
Copyright 2015 United Way of Larimer County