Fishers Youth Mentoring Initiative A Worthwhile Investment
Writer / Janet C. Striebel
Photgrapher / Demi Lawrence
The Youth Mentoring Initiative (YMI) is partnering with the Hamilton Southeastern School Foundation to provide mentoring programs for students in order to encourage healthy development of personal values.
According to the 2013 Gallup Survey, 8,872 HSE students (grades 7-12) were anonymously surveyed measuring hope for the future, engagement with school and wellbeing. The results indicate that 37 percent of these students feel stuck or hopeless, 35 percent are not engaged in school and 30 percent lack wellbeing.
“Wealth doesn’t equal health,” says Darren Heil, Founder and Director of Community Engagement and YMI. “Though Fishers is an affluent community, wealth hides the truth of the poverty or lack of relationships of caring adults within the lives of many of these kids.”
Darren brings more than 15 years of service to youth development, working with teens in various capacities as a local youth pastor. His hope is to join the community with the school systems in order to create specialized mentor programs to meet the critical needs of students.
“We need to stop using the phrase ‘at risk’ because it gives a negative connotation when describing kids,” explains Darren. “The fact is many students simply do not have a support system and feel disconnected. Even if we, as adults, don’t have people engaged in our lives holding us accountable, then we too are at risk for making poor choices.”
Darren believes that due to limited budgets and small counseling departments within schools, volunteers from the community are needed to get involved and recognize the role they play in helping students feel connected, supported and validated for healthy growth and development.
The way it works is students showing signs of emotional, social or academic withdrawal are typically recommended by teachers, counselors or administrative staff to sign up for YMI. Students complete a questionnaire that helps YMI understand their interests and personalities to better pair them with mentors. YMI provides weekly outlines to help stimulate conversation between students and mentors.
YMI Not Mentoring?
You don’t have to have a special degree to become a mentor for YMI. A mentor just needs to be a caring adult who is willing to spend one hour in the school each week to make a difference in the life of a student.
To watch videos about mentoring, visit ymionline.org/become-a-mentor.
A mentor informational meeting will be held Wednesday, October 19 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at New Hope Presbyterian Church.
The City of Fishers will host a 2017 Mentor Appreciation Event next April 20 at Saxony Hall as a way of celebrating mentoring.
Recently, the school administration accepted the proposal to add YMI staff to the counseling and deans’ departments. The pilot phase will begin at both Fishers and Hamilton Southeastern High Schools. The staff will help manage mentors and connect with students in need.
“Students reach out for adult contact every day. Fortunately, most of them have families that satisfy that effort. Many do not,” says Dr. Allen Bourff, Superintendent at Hamilton Southeastern Schools. “YMI offers all of us in the HSE community the chance to be there for those students who have nobody else. As a broker of mentoring connections, YMI serves a crucially important need in the community. I encourage those who can to support YMI, so that someone is there when a young person in our community reaches out.”
The YMI 2020 Initiative’s goal is to provide one-on-one support to about 600 students in grades 5-12 through school-based mentoring in the HSE school system by 2020. Further, YMI hopes to raise $200,000 this year in order to add new volunteers, fund school campus staff and hire an administrative assistant.
Darren welcomes you to invest in the future of Fishers.
“After conducting many student interviews, we’ve learned that many kids need someone to talk to as a result of feeling disconnected. When these students do talk to someone who cares, they inevitably feel better about themselves. We must continue to cultivate our community and invest in our youth.”
If you don’t have the time to mentor but would like to support this program, you could make a donation online.
Visit ymionline.org to become a mentor, make a donation or to learn more.