Four Rivers Area Family YMCA is in the early stages of establishing a youth mentoring program, where area children in second- to seventh-grade will be paired with adult mentors from the community.

The Y currently is seeking adult volunteers who would like to serve as mentors to complete an application.

“We are just building the program now, and the first step is to get the mentors,” said Brandy Koch, membership services director.

Mentors need to be 23 years or older and a dependable, consistent and responsible person. There is no upper age limit for mentors, and all adults will be considered — from young professionals to retired folks.

“They should be someone who can empathize with youth struggles, who listens and respects different points of views, who is encouraging, creative, kind, fun . . . ,” said Koch.

Mentors will be required to make a one-year commitment to the program, and they will need to meet with their mentee a minimum of two hours a month, which Koch said planners envision as two one-hour visits a month.

The visits will be held at the Y facility in Washington, and as part of the program both the mentor and mentee will be provided with Y membership, meaning they will have full access to all of the classes, programs and services offered at the Y.

“They can participate in classes together, work out together, swim together, play basketball — even if they just need a quiet place to talk or play games, we’re going to provide that here at the Y,” said Koch.

Mentors will have to complete a fingerprint live scan security screening and an eight-hour training before they will be matched with a student.

To Help Kids With Wide Range of Needs

There are a variety of reasons why children may be recommended to the program.

It could be something as simple as they don’t have a consistent role model in their lives for whatever reason, maybe due to the loss of a parent or a custody battle, and they need someone who can be a positive role model, said Koch.

Or it could be for more serious reasons, such as they have been in trouble with the police or their family has been affected by drug abuse.

Children don’t have to be at-risk to be accepted into the program. They could just need some extra support in their lives, said Koch.

The Four Rivers program will be similar to one offered by Y-USA called Reach and Rise, she noted.

The idea for establishing a local program comes from seeing an increased need in the community, Koch said.

“We’ve had a couple of instances recently where teens have been involved in some misdemeanor offenses, they were probably just out doing things they shouldn’t be, so this is a reaction to what has been happening in our community with our teens.”

A survey by the Franklin County Area United Way identified drug abuse and mental health problems as two big issues facing the community, and the Y sees this youth mentoring program as a proactive way to help.

“The Y, being an organization whose mission is to strengthen the community, we found that really our need is to strengthen the community through our teens and providing support to them,” said Koch. “It’s Big Brothers-Big Sisters-esque, but on a different level.”

Thoughtfully Matched

The mentors and mentees will be thoughtfullly matched with each other based on each child’s specific needs and the mentor’s talents. After completing the application and passing the background check, mentors will be interviewed several times to determine which child they would be best paired with, said Koch.

“It could take up to two months for us to make a match because we really want to get to know people who are our mentors. We want to make sure the match is going to work,” she said. “We don’t want to just meet them once and just match them up with anyone. We want to meet them a few times and make sure we are going to be pairing people up who will fit well together.

“These are kids who have been given false promises their whole lives, and we don’t want to do that,” she added.

Confidentiality of what is said between the mentor and mentee will be mandatory, and all parties involved — the child, the parents/caregivers and the mentor — will participate willingly. All will be required to sign a contract that spells out the expectations for their being in the program, said Koch.

Anyone who is interested in learning more about the program as a potential mentor can contact Koch at the Y by phone, 636-239-5704, or by email, brandy.koch@gwrymca.org.

Mentor appplications can be picked up at the Y or through Koch.

The new youth mentoring program will be funded in part by the Y’s 2017 Mud Run, set for Saturday, Aug. 26.