Investing In the Future
New Youth Mentoring Initiative Executive Director, Alison Gatz, Talks Goals, Impact of Mentorship
Writer: Matt Keating
Photographer: Holly Simmons at Holly Lea Photography
Alison Gatz, the new executive director of Youth Mentoring Initiative (YMI), Fishers loves her work and is looking forward to taking over an organization she adores. YMI provides mentoring for students by building and sustaining a mentoring community with the highest level of service, integrity, encouragement and empathy.
She was thrilled to be offered the job. Her history with YMI has been extremely positive.
“It goes back to when I was serving on a committee at the YMCA and given the task to come up with a community service project,” Gatz says. “I wanted to start an adult mentoring program because I was seeing so many adults that were doing the best they could every day, but they were feeling very discouraged. I knew YMI provided youth mentoring for students, so I reached out to establish a partnership.”
During those discussions, they asked Gatz to help create the role of Parent Liaison to connect with, and serve, the YMI parents.
“While creating that role, I discovered ways to improve some of the systems,” Gatz says. “One thing led to another, and here I am.”
Gatz will primarily be responsible for fundraising, but along with that, she will work on marketing, community engagement and building relationships with local businesses and partner agencies.
Gatz noted she couldn’t have asked for a better staff to work with.
“Our mentors, staff, board of directors, school staff and volunteers have amazing hearts, and they truly love and believe in the mission of YMI,” she says. “The community partners we get to join forces with to serve Fishers are amazing and inspiring.
Gatz’s goal is to simply keep improving YMI.
“I want to get better at giving the kids we mentor the support they need in what matters most to them,” Gatz says. “I also want to get better at recruiting mentors who want to give back and make a difference and get better at our relationships in the community by being a solid contributor to the mental health initiative. I would love to see every student in Fishers have a mentor if they want one.”
Plenty of great projects are planned for the year.
“We added a campus coach at Fishers High School (FHS) this year, and that program really exploded,” Gatz says. “We plan to add a campus coach at Hamilton Southeastern High School (HSE) this fall to get that program up and running and possibly a second coach at FHS.”
Gatz is looking forward to developing a Corporate Mentoring program that would give YMI’s mentees the ability to go to a mentors’ place of employment rather than the mentor going to their school.
“This would really help with the challenge many of our male mentors have in scheduling time to get out of the office to go mentor, but also give our mentees the opportunity to learn about a job, skill or trade while being mentored. It’
Gatz gets plenty of positive feedback from the Fishers community.
“We hear all the time how much our mentees look forward to seeing their mentor each week during school hours, and we also hear from our mentors that meeting their mentee is the highlight of their week,” she says. “When that relationship begins to flourish, the ripple effect to the friends and families that our mentees and mentors share life with is powerful.”
Gatz added that “the power of feeling supported and encouraged can take a mentee from just surviving to thriving. School gets better, they feel more engaged and they begin to have a vision for their life.”
Gatz says she feels blessed that she had the opportunity to stay at home with her girls when they were little, but she also felt the desire to have a part-time job to interact with people.
Gatz enjoys spending time with her husband Bryant and their three daughters Bailey, 19, Sydney, 14 and Mia, 11. The family is often found enjoying the outdoors.
“If it’s outside or being active, I’m in,” Gatz says. “We love to be on the water and go camping, biking and hiking. I love to get my hands dirty in the yard, too.”
Gatz wants parents to know that raising kids these days takes a village.
“I know I am not the best parent all the time, and I cannot be everything to my girls,” she says. “Sometimes they just need to hear another voice other than mine, because, after a while, they don’t hear me. Having a mentor can just be that additional voice telling them they matter, that they are enough and they are loved.
“For the adults in our community, one hour a week is all it takes to completely change the direction of a life,” Gatz adds. “We can change the world, one hour at a time, one student at a time. If time is not a resource you have available, we can always use financial support, no matter what amount. Get involved today at ymionline.org.”