It's the latter part of January but there is still time for residents to do their part for National Mentoring Month.
But even past January, YMCA employees and volunteers say any time is a good time to become a mentor to an at-risk youth.
At YMCAs across Phoenix, including the Ahwatukee Foothills Family YMCA, residents can sign up to become a mentor to a youth, ages 6 to 18. Advocates of the Building Futures Mentoring Program say the commitment, at least one hour each week that can last a year, is a rewarding experience that is a benefit for both parties involved.
"When we look at the statistics they indicate that youth that have a mentor or caring adult outside of the family, they do better in school, academically, they are less likely to use drugs and alcohol and engage in violent behavior," said Kate Clarno, program director for the Tempe, Chandler and Ahwatukee Foothills Family YMCA. "We are looking for people that are committed, engaged, and really want to change the lives of a youth."
Potential mentors go through a thorough background check, which includes fingerprint clearance and references. When someone becomes a mentor, there is a training process before they get to meet the mentee. Mentors have to be at least 23 years of age and neither party has to be a member of the YMCA.
"I had never done a one-on-one relationship with a kiddo before," said Krys Shaw, a Tempe resident and volunteer. "I have done a lot of volunteer work and I found this is one of the most rewarding ways to spend my time."
Shaw is mentoring her second teen after spending a year with her first. She said her job isn't to diagnose or solve all the child's problems, it's just to be there and build a relationship with them.
"Above anything else we want them to know they can trust us, and we are there for them," she said. "I want to encourage them the best I can because a lot of them have experienced disappointment, and sometimes abandonment."
The Building Futures Mentoring Program at Phoenix YMCA is in its second year, and last year served 250 youth.
Phoenix is one of five cities in the United States to have their YMCAs undertake this program. To find out more, visit www.valleyymca.org/social/buildingFutures.cfm.
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