Carmel Youth Assistance Program Needs Our Support!

March 2021

After a year’s worth of virtual meetings, birthdays, celebrations and events, I could understand why people’s interest in these may be waning. Having said that, virtual fundraisers continue to be the only viable platform for our community’s essential nonprofits to effectively fundraise until a time when we can safely resume large-scale in-person events. In that spirit and as the gala’s media sponsor, Carmel Monthly is asking our readers to join us in supporting the Carmel Youth Assistance Program (CYAP) by “virtually” attending the 2021 Carmel Gala, Design Bright Futures on April 24, 2021. This year’s platinum sponsors are the City of Carmel and United Consulting.

Changing the Lives of Carmel’s At-Risk Youth

Formed in the fall of 2015, CYAP’s mission is to help strengthen youth and families through community involvement, access to services and support of volunteers through mentoring and tutoring. Like other peer Youth Assistance Programs throughout Hamilton County, local volunteers develop and provide access to programs and services that promote positive growth experiences and enhance home and community relationships.

Carmel Youth Assistance Program

CYAP works in collaboration with the Carmel Clay School District, the City of Carmel and the Hamilton County Superior Court. Since its inception, CYAP has raised money to provide camps and recreational activities for students, food for the Carmel Summer Meals Program, basic necessities and shelter for families who would otherwise be food insecure and impoverished. Yes—there are families in need throughout our community, and the pandemic has only exacerbated many of their vulnerabilities.

Since 2015, CYAP’s metrics show significant improvement in the behavior, academics and social skills of the youth in its program.

A Powerful Story About a CYAP Mentor and Mentee

I spoke with a CYAP parent, Shannon, and mentor, Susan Shelley, about the impact the mentorship program has had on their lives and the lives of Shannon’s two daughters who are in the program and have their own mentors.

“I am a single mom of five and have two daughters that have [CYAP] mentors,” Shannon shared. “I entered this program because I was leaving the house every Monday and Thursday night to do counseling sessions with two of my daughters.”

Shannon explained that one of her daughters is a sexual abuse survivor—abused by an extended family member. Needless to say, Shannon reached out to CYAP for resources and for help. That call led to two of her daughters developing life-changing relationships with their respective mentors.

“The mentors and Maggie [Figge] are phenomenal,” Shannon expressed. “I started out with baby steps because I was so worried, and we were just coming out of what had happened with the family. The mentors respected [our situation]. This is just a great program, and my kids really enjoy it. They’ve gotten so much self-esteem and confidence in spending time with their mentors. It’s also built my confidence that there are still good people out there. I had to set my fear aside, and I thought about my kids. And the kids have really grown so much. We’ve come together better as a family as a whole because [the kids] know that they are safe.”

Susan Shelley is a CYAP mentor for one of Shannon’s daughters.

“I saw a listing for a mentor, I think in ‘Good Day Carmel,’ and thought it sounded like a perfect fit,” Shelley said. “I was super excited to be accepted into the program. I met my mentee in January of 2019, and she is just the light of my life. Typically, we’re together three to three and a half hours [a week].”

Shelley shared that she and her mentee spend time reading, painting and cooking, and they enjoyed going out to eat [pre-COVID-19], going to different events in the Village of WestClay, swimming and learning life skills such as budgeting and expanding their respective comfort zones—together.

“My mentee expects me to keep pace with anything that I ask of her,” Shelley stated. “I’ve seen her mature in a good way, but I also see her struggling with stress. When you talk about mental health, I don’t know how a 13–14-year-old gets through all this without a tremendous amount of stress. I’m hoping that as a mentor, I can somewhat alleviate that. I am a trusted adviser and someone that she can have fun with without judgement. Within five minutes of being with my mentee, I’m in a different world. I’m in her world, and that is a really beautiful place to be.”

The Needs in Carmel Are Real and Growing in Number

Maggie Figge, early intervention advocate at CYAP, shared how the pandemic and the economic downturn have increased the number of case referrals and the amount of funding needed to support the vital programs offered by CYAP.

“The need has just grown immensely throughout 2020,” Figge explained. “We have families that have never needed help that all of a sudden find themselves in a precarious position and need anything from just a little boost of something to needing full-blown supports—financial and mental health related.”

Carmel Youth Assistance Program

Figge shared that 40% of CYAP’s referrals have been for mental health support for kids as a result of the pandemic. She expressed that CYAP’s greatest needs at this time are for mentors for the many kids that they have on a waiting list as well as donations that help fund the Carmel Summer Meals program and other programs that help families with transportation, rent, tutoring, counseling and so much more.

Figge added, “We are getting ready to launch a tutoring program that will start this summer. It will be a simple volunteer activity—two times a week for 20 minutes—in person or virtual. We will give the tutor all the materials they need. It’s our way of trying to mitigate that summer learning loss.”

Not Just Your Typical All-Virtual Gala

Register … register … register! And then organize a small and safe viewing party for the Virtual Carmel Gala – Design Bright Futures, Saturday, April 24 at 7 p.m. LIVE on Facebook or Carmel TV. Order your charcuterie board or floral arrangement on the Carmel Gala website for you and your viewing party guests to enjoy while supporting CYAP. Also, don’t forget to purchase tickets for the Bourbon & Bling raffle!

Raffle tickets, “Buy It Now” purchases and donations opened on March 15, so register NOW through April 24 at 7 p.m. Silent auction bidding will officially open on Friday, April 9 and close Saturday, April 24 at 9 p.m.

Register or sign in at CarmelGala.org or text CarmelGala21 to 243725. Join us virtually on the Carmel Youth Assistance Facebook page or Camel TV for a live, interactive evening that will include Mayor Jim Brainard and Dr. Beresford with special guest appearances by other local celebrities and partners. There are many raffle prizes to be won in the Bourbon & Bling raffle including a Coach handbag, Kate Spade tote, $500 MetalMark Fine Jewelry gift card, bottle of Blanton’s Bourbon and MORE! The raffle drawings will be held during the live event at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 24.

The official attire for this year’s virtual gala is what I’ve coined as pandemic posh, meaning whatever you are comfortable wearing—loungewear to formal attire. The world is your oyster!

You can also follow the event on Facebook for special videos, announcements and surprises along the way: https://www.facebook.com/carmelyouthassistanceprogram.

For more information on CYAP or on how to become a mentor or a volunteer tutor, to request assistance or to donate, visit youthassistance.org/carmel.

Carmel Youth Assistance Program