Hot Springs Family YMCA
When most people think about the YMCA, working out to the music of the Village People may come to mind before thoughts of programming for youth. What many people don’t realize is how the YMCA is extremely active in community development, and one of several programs devoted to helping kids and teens is Reach & Rise ® youth mentoring.
Reach & Rise ® is a national mentoring program established in San Francisco in 1999, funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and operated through the YMCA. It is now offered in 40 states and has been part of the Hot Springs Family YMCA’s youth development offerings since 2013. Its structure differs from other mentoring programs in that the focus is on therapeutic methods, seeking to connect with youth on a deeper level than just meeting up and having fun – although that’s part of the process.
The program strives to stay on the cutting edge of
evidence-based practices in the industry. As part of these efforts, it has
recently expanded its services to include small group mentoring in addition to
its traditional one-to-one model. Hope Mason, who also brings leadership to the
S.C.O.R.E. afterschool program for Lakeside students and has a background in
education, heads this new group-based endeavor.
The traditional 1:1 model is also forging into new territory
with a new national research grant, which will closely monitor results of
mentoring over the next two years. This grant, also through OJDDP, is expected
to firmly root Reach & Rise ® in evidenced-based practices to better serve
its youth participants between the ages of 6 and 17. Elan McAfee, a former
English instructor who also has experience in the non-profit sector working with
victims of domestic violence, leads the 1:1 program.
Both the group and 1:1 models of Reach & Rise ® require mentors to pass a federal fingerprint background check and complete a free 15-hour training in therapeutic mentoring methods and program policies. This protects youth and prepares mentors to address a wide array of issues that may arise. The youth in the program are diverse but usually have one or more risk factors, such as being raised in a single-parent household or low socioeconomic status. It is offered free of charge, and neither the youth nor mentors are required to be members of the YMCA.