Can You Spare an Hour of Your Time for Our City’s Kids?
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Would you agree that every child in our community deserves to have a positive role model in their lives—a mentor that he or she can trust and rely on? Are you looking for a meaningful way to give back to our community and able to spare an hour of your time?
The Carmel Youth Assistance Program is asking you to consider mentoring a young child from Carmel. The need for available mentors is great, and it does require a level of commitment, but the return on investment for mentoring a youth is far greater a reward than many can comprehend.
What Is Carmel Youth Assistance (CYAP)?
CYAP was formed in the fall of 2015 to help strengthen youth and families through community involvement. CYAP works in collaboration with the Carmel Clay School District, City of Carmel and the Hamilton County Superior Court. CYAP is a franchise of a great concept that was started in Hamilton County by Judge Paul Felix, Hamilton County Circuit Court, and Judge Steven Nation, Hamilton County Superior Court 1. Hamilton County Youth Assistance and its collaborating youth assistance programs, such as CYAP, help nearly 500 children per year.
Without intervention, approximately 40% of those children would end up incarcerated, which could cost as much as $1.73 million per month for Hamilton County citizens. CYAP and its advocates are working with its mentors and volunteers to engage identified at-risk school-age children. Through the coordination of services, family assistance, tutoring and mentoring, CYAP is able to help build skills and confidence in the children and keep them on a path to success.
What Does a CYAP Mentor and Commitment Look Like?
Once a mentor is paired with a child (mentee), the mentor and mentee do regularly scheduled activities together. CYAP has proven time and again that children who are matched with caring mentors do better in school, develop higher self-esteem and make better choices for themselves going forward.
CYAP mentors are asked to make a one-year commitment doing at least one activity every week with their mentee. Mentors and mentees typically meet in the community setting and engage in a fun activity. Mentors are not required or expected to spend copious amounts of money on these activities. The point of the time spent is for the mentor and mentee to enjoy conversation and new experiences—together.
Kevin Woods, a Carmel resident and parent, became a CYAP mentor at a time his own kids had grown older and he was looking for a volunteer opportunity. He read about CYAP in a Hamilton County Leadership Academy newsletter and made a fateful call to the CYAP office.
“My kids are now high school age and older, and I had some extra time to give back to the community,” Woods said. “I thought this [mentoring] was something that I could do that would give back to the community and work with kids, which was something I was excited about, and I got a hold of the office, and the rest is history.”
Another Carmel resident and CYAP mentor, Lori Gray, became an empty nester, and as a former teacher who worked with at-risk kids, she wanted to find a way to continue to work with kids and make a positive impact in their lives.
“I saw an article in the local paper about the program, and the timing was really awesome,” Gray said. “I have a real heart for kids in need because those are the kinds of kids I once taught. It all came together, and it just felt like a perfect fit.”
How to Become a CYAP Mentor
Persons who have the available time and a passion for assisting with the development of a child are most likely good candidates. Prospective mentors should also possess attributes such as commitment, adaptability and a positive attitude.
Woods shared more about his experience with becoming a CYAP mentor.
“They [CYAP] do a very thorough job on their end,” he said. “Once I was approved and officially in the program, they provided training that is very helpful and answered any questions that I had and alleviated most of my concerns. It [the training] was a very positive experience.”
Melissa Yarger, early intervention advocate at CYAP, added, “You can go to our website and fill out the application—online—which takes about five minutes. Once we’ve reviewed the application and if we think it’s a good fit, we then reach out to the applicant and complete a federal background check. If that comes back clear, we go through an interview process. And if that goes well, we have the applicant go through an orientation that lasts for about an hour and a half.”
Yarger added, “We want people to know that filling out an application is not making a commitment. So, if applicants are not sure and just want more information before going any further, they can indicate on the application that they would like for us to contact them, and we will answer any of their questions.”
The Benefits of Being a Mentor
Woods was paired with a 7-year old boy and just recently celebrated their one-year anniversary since being paired by CYAP.
“My mentee and I have come to be very comfortable with each other,” Woods shared. “He’s a funny guy and doesn’t mince his words. He tells me what he’s thinking so I’m not left guessing very often. He has become very comfortable around my house and around my family, and that’s been nice to see. What I get out of it [mentoring] is that I feel like I’m making a difference in the life of child who hasn’t been dealt the best set of cards and has been through a rough time. Whether he wants to hang out and play or needs to talk about what’s on his mind that he’s not comfortable sharing with his parent or teachers but is comfortable sharing with me, it makes me feel like I am helping this child.”
Gray added, “CYAP paired me up with a 10-year-old girl, and the best moments have been driving up in her driveway and that feeling of seeing her and she sees me, then we run to each other and hug one another, and then we go off to have some fun. The sad part is she moved, and that was a really tough day for me after being with her for nine months. But we’re keeping in touch. I’ve gone up to have lunch and see her. Her mom welcomes me in their lives, so it’s worked out really well.”
Gray concluded, “Doing things with her [mentee] that she had never experienced before—simple things—have been the most fulfilling for me. I would promise anyone who becomes a mentor through CYAP, it will be one of the most fulfilling experiences that they will ever have—guaranteed.”
Does mentoring sound right for you? Go to youthassistance.org/carmel for more information and to fill out the online application.