Boone County Mentoring Partnership Pairs Up Mentors With Local Youth
The Lebanon-based Boone County Mentoring Partnership (BCMP) was officially launched as a nonprofit organization in 2015, but the seeds of the program were planted more than a decade ago.
“The partnership really started back when a group of community leaders and business people attended a State Farm-sponsored symposium and learned of the critical need for mentoring, and helping at-risk kids,” says Matt Wilson, executive director for the BCMP. “They learned at that conference that for every kid who drops out of high school, it costs their community between $300,000 and $500,000 over the course of the following 20 years.”
Those local leaders in Lebanon promptly set to work implementing a graduation program at Lebanon High School as well as a mentoring initiative for local kids, and former Mayor Harold “Huck” Lewis held a dinner to raise funds for the two projects.
“At that point, we were housed at the Boys & Girls Club, and then in 2015 the decision was made to officially launch the BCMP and put the focus primarily on mentoring,” says Wilson, who joined the organization four years ago.
With a background in youth ministry and counseling, Wilson says many kids throughout Lebanon and surrounding communities are in need of a structured mentoring program for a wide age range.
“I was talking to so many kids in our community and was constantly thinking about what a good mentoring program would look like, then I found out about the BCMP and quickly joined forces,” he says, adding that the BCMP serves kids aged 8 to 17 and can sometimes accommodate younger ages on a case-by-case basis.
Wilson says the organization strives to match mentors and mentees based on personality and areas of interest, as well as geographical proximity.
“It’s a community-based program, and there are a lot of things to do locally for the mentors and mentees,” he says. “We try to host at least bimonthly group events – that is before COVID, and hopefully it will resume again soon – and we’ve done a bowling party, baseball games, a pool party, and events at Dull’s Tree Farm.”
The BCMP has also forged a partnership with the Witham Family YMCA, through which mentors and mentees are encouraged to use the YMCA amenities, and BCMP participants can also enjoy reduced admission rates at the Hoosier Heights indoor rock climbing facility in Indy.
“We do have a lot of events and things mentors can do with their mentees, but it may be something as simple as grabbing a bite to eat or hanging out at a park,” Wilson says. “You can go and play basketball, go to the library or make a model car. There’s a wide range of things that people can do. Some mentors have even helped kids learn new skills like painting or woodwork.”
While the BCMP serves a wide age range, Wilson says the majority of kids involved are in their middle school years.
“I’m convinced that if we can’t reach a kid by the eighth grade, it’s so much harder to get them engaged,” he says.
Mentors can expect to attend quarterly training sessions, after initial one-on-one training when mentors sign on for the program. A bachelor’s degree is not required, and mentors undergo background and reference checks as well as an interview process.
“We also offer various materials and helpful resources for mentors to use as they wish,” Wilson says, adding that the BCMP currently has approximately 100 mentor-mentee pairings as well as a few mentors on a waitlist. “We want to be able to make the best match possible, and we won’t force matches to happen if, say, mentor A isn’t a good fit for mentee C.”
Since the coronavirus outbreak began in the U.S. earlier this year, BCMP leaders have encouraged mentors to spend time with mentees virtually via FaceTime and Zoom video connection and keep in touch with mentees at least once per week.
“We know this is a critical time for kids – really for everyone – and there are a lot of kids confined to their apartment or home and need to socialize in some way or other,” Wilson says. “We purchased some art kits through Myart in Zionsville, where the mentor and mentee both have kits and share their progress from a distance.”
Wilson says now is a more critical time than ever for locals to volunteer as mentors for local kids in need.
“We can’t just sit back and expect other people to come forward,” he says. “Even one hour a week can make a difference in a kid’s life. There’s so much untapped potential, creativity and innovation in these kids and a lot of them just need a positive voice to come out and let them know they can do great things.”
The Boone County Mentoring Partnership is headquartered at 404 West Camp Street in Lebanon. For more details including information on becoming a mentor, call 765-335-0000 and visit boonecountymentoring.org.