Boone County Mentoring Partnership Helps Local Youth Realize Their Potential
Writer / Matt Keating
For the last seven years, Boone County Mentoring Partnership (BCMP) has been helping kids looking for guidance and a leader they can count on.
Matt Wilson, executive director, says BCMP does a lot of good for the community through its Mentoring, Youth Assistance and Graduation Coach programs. It also connects young people with adult volunteer mentors and resources that may help them overcome obstacles.
“Through the connection with caring, encouraging adults, we believe the young people in our program will have a greater opportunity to see their potential, value and worth,” Wilson says. “This may introduce them to the hope that their present circumstances are not the end, but simply obstacles that can be endured and overcome. Practically speaking, if young people embrace this idea and believe they matter, they will experience improvements in academics, job performance, relationships, coping skills and other life skills we may take for granted.”
Wilson notes that the program officially started in 2015 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, but goes back further than that.
“In 2009 a group of community members were concerned about those kids who drop out of high school without earning their diploma, and what impact that has long-term on the person and the community as a collective whole,” Wilson says.
The community members attended a summit that raised awareness, and offered insight for ways to implement community change to help change a young person’s life trajectory.
“One group decided to focus on implementing the Graduation Coach Program at Lebanon High School, while another decided to focus on community mentoring,” Wilson says. “Several models were studied, and ultimately the group decided it would be best to house a mentoring program at the Lebanon Area Boys & Girls Club.”
After that, Huck Lewis, Lebanon mayor at the time, helped to raise awareness and support for a mentoring initiative which became SCORE Mentoring, according to Wilson.
“Meanwhile, a group of teachers at Lebanon Middle School developed an in-school mentoring program called SOS,” Wilson says. “In 2015 the mentoring advisory board determined it would be best to form a nonprofit focused on mentoring, and in December 2015 the Boone County Mentoring Partnership was formally recognized as an organization.”
BCMP absorbed as many matches from the other programs as possible.
“SCORE was dormant for nearly a year and SOS was looking for assistance in recruiting mentors in 2016, and reached out throughout all of Boone County to gain credibility as a countywide organization willing to work with youth throughout,” Wilson says. “We really want to be noticed as a countywide organization because, as one of the original board members noted, ‘If there is a young person in need of a mentor in any corner of the county, we should insist on finding a mentor for that child.’”
In 2018 the BCMP team was approached by Boone County Youth Assistance Program leaders about merging.
“The board approved this and we now operate three critical programs,” Wilson says. “Now we average between 90 and 100 active matches in our mentoring program, and a majority of the matches have been together for over a year – many of which matched for four to five years. The Youth Assistance Program has consistently increased the caseload, connecting over 50 young people and families with a variety of local resources. Additionally, the Youth Assistance Program has provided over 500 tutoring hours to kids in the past year.”
Wilson and others often hear hard stories, or frustrations about why a match is not working the way anyone envisioned.
“Our mentors or mentees do not always share the great, impactful stories because they do not mentor for the attention or to be celebrated,” Wilson says. “They do it because they want to invest in the young generation, and they genuinely care about the well-being of the kids. But we hear, ‘My mentor is like family,’ or ‘My mentor is family,’ and we know the impact is real. For a young person who has experienced trauma, they may not change their behavior or grades easily and they will act out, but when those kids know their mentor is available for them or they know they are loved, changes do occur. It just might not happen as quickly as we expect.”
Wilson says the program included a young man who graduated from high school recently, and didn’t expect to graduate.
“He always thought he would drop out of school at some point,” Wilson says. “He now has a full-time job. During his senior year in high school he was working two jobs while finishing school. He has an apartment. He has his own car. These are huge milestones for him, and he credits his time with his mentor.”
This story is just one of many that Wilson and several others with the program have to tell.
Wilson says they are always looking to get more people involved.
“People can be involved with their time or resources,” he says. “We need more mentors. Approximately 1,000 kids in our county cannot identify a positive adult role model in their lives. We have 90 to 100 kids matched. We need more people willing to give four hours a month for a commitment of a year. We also need financial support. In order to increase capacity to manage more mentors and mentees, we need to increase personnel as well, which requires increasing the budget.”
Visit boonecountymentoring.org for more details including donation and volunteer info.