The YWCA Helps At-Risk Youth Feel Valued and Achieve Their Goals
When you think back on your childhood and adolescence, you may be able to identify one or two people who invested in you. Maybe you had a parent that helped you achieve your goals, or maybe there was an aunt or a family friend that attended your school events and encouraged you to pursue extracurricular activities. Having an adult that cares about you and makes you feel valued is critical for at-risk youth, but identifying that adult may be more challenging.
Mentoring programs can help fill the gap between at-risk youth and adults that can offer guidance and encouragement. Mentors offer youth an increased self-worth and the validation that they are valuable. Mentors help youth stay focused in school, offer encouragement in the midst of a challenge and help them shape goals for the future.
In an ideal situation, the mentor creates a positive influence for a teen that already has engaged parents or grandparents who are already guiding the youth. In many cases, the mentor takes on a more central role and is an important counselor, advisor and source of encouragement for the teen. The mentor helps the teen stay focused and motivated in school, providing structure to their free time with activities and helps them navigate obstacles.
CHOICES: Transitioning from elementary to middle school can be difficult, but particularly so for youth who may not have an adult voice providing encouragement and support. The CHOICES program, offered at four middle schools in the St. Joseph area, includes a curriculum that addresses the specific issues that adolescent girls face. Mentors from the Missouri Western State University Athletics Department are matched with girls to discuss challenging questions in an open and honest environment.
DECISIONS: The DECISIONS program pairs seventh-grade boys with men’s baseball, cross country, football and track athletes from the Missouri Western University Athletics Department for an eight-week curriculum covering topics from relationships to bullying and peer pressure. The energy and work ethic demonstrated by the university athletes make them ideal role models for seventh-grade boys.
Having an adult who cares is critical for all youth to help them overcome obstacles and meet their goals. The YWCA St. Joseph recognizes the important role that mentors play in the lives of youth. To learn more about either of these programs, please contact the YWCA.