When a young person is mentored, the positive impact is substantial, and Vineyard Family Services(VFS) ministry is doing all it can to make sure our area youth have this life changing advantage. Thanks to a federal grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice for Detention Prevention, VFS is implementing Wise Advisors, a mentor/mentee program. “The program is driven by one thing, to help and improve our at-risk youth in Shelby County and surrounding counties,” explains Derick Williams, Family Services Director at VFS. Designed for mentees 12- to 17-year-olds, VFS is searching for caring adults ages 21 and older to be mentors.
Williams, who is overseeing Wise Advisors, has personally seen where the lack of a mentor can lead. “I worked for the Alabama Department of Corrections for many years. One thing I continually saw in the prison system were a lot of our inmates who were either from a home with no father or didn’t have a mentor in general. You could clearly see how it affected them as a teen and followed them into adulthood.”
Williams also has the facts when it comes to the impact of mentors. For instance, 55 percent of mentored youth are less likely to skip school, 55 percent are more likely to be enrolled in college, 46 percent are less likely to start using drugs, and 81 percent are more likely to report participating regularly in extracurricular activities. Mentoring, at its core, guarantees young people that there is someone who cares about them, assures them they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges and makes them feel like they matter. Mentoring also reduces “depression symptoms” and increases “social acceptance, academic attitudes and grades. (mentoring.org)
June 5, 2021 VFS will host a one-day training for Wise Advisor mentors 9 a.m.– 4p.m. at their Pelham office. Training gives mentors the knowledge they need to engage with mentees. “In training we cover a plethora of situations that a mentor may be faced with,” says Williams adding that all mentors must be willing to have one home visit with VFS leader, mentee and parent and pass a background check. Mentors are also asked to commit to mentoring for at least nine months and invest at least four hours a month with mentees. “Through that time investment, they build a healthy relationship, help strengthen and guide the talents of these mentees, they encourage them to come up with their own coping strategies and empower them to work through their own issues. They lead by example,” says Williams.
Mentees also commit in writing to participate in the program and mentees and mentors are carefully matched. “We want to make sure we get a good fit,” says Williams. ”Race, religion do not play a role in it. Our motto is to match mentee with mentor with common interests. This allows for the opportunity to build a great relationship.” Williams emphasizes that mentors are not tasked with being a counselor to the mentee, however, VFS does offer this service free of charge to any teen in the mentor program.
At the end of nine months, VFS holds a mentee graduation celebration. Post-graduation mentor/mentee relationships may continue, but VFS believes it is critical to celebrate the nine month investment and accomplishment achieved by mentor and mentee . “Some of these kids have not received credit for anything. This is a milestone we don’t want them to ever forget.” To learn more about mentoring visit www.vfsdads.com. To sign up for the June 5 training contact Derick Williams, firstname.lastname@example.org 205-704-0594. If you know a child in that can benefit from this free mentoring program, contact Charity Havercroft at VFS, email@example.com, 205-837-0265. †