In Real Life Blog Series: Connecting with Community through Youth Initiated Mentoring

Teresa Riesberg, Operations and Events Coordinator, Midlands Mentoring Partnership and Emily Wilson, Youth Initiated Mentoring Coordinator
August 26th, 2016
Posted In: In Real Life, Mentoring Partnership, Mentoring Stories, Our Affiliates

Every day, teachers, coaches and colleagues, build natural mentoring relationships with youth through simple interactions. This August, we’ll share stories and resources for mentors and mentees, whether natural or formal, illustrating their role in helping youth develop skills, confidence and social capital. Read Alendra and Linda’s mentoring story about how their natural connection deepened through formal mentoring. 

Youth Initiated Mentoring (YIM) is a unique model that matches juvenile justice-involved youth with mentors. YIM provides assistance and support to grow acquaintances into mentoring relationships. Instead of recruiting mentors, a match support specialist works with youth to identify an adult who has made an impact in their life. The youth are then matched with their selected mentor in a formal mentoring model.

Midlands Mentoring Partnership (MMP) in Omaha, Nebraska has been working to facilitate the implementation of this model in existing mentoring programs for nearly three years.  With more than 60 YIM matches, one of the model’s many success stories, monitored and supported by Girls Inc. Omaha, is the match of Alendra and her mentor Linda. The two were neighbors when Linda suggested Alendra join the community basketball team that she coached. After two years of playing on the team, Alendra graduated out of the program and went on to high school. The following year when she was asked to choose an adult who made a positive impact in her life, she remembered her former coach.YIM Match

Alendra describes Linda as “a good role model, fearless and caring.” She chose Linda as her mentor because she felt comfortable talking with her about things going on in her life. Linda remembers being surprised when she was approached to be Alendra’s formal mentor. “Initially I was taken aback! I felt so honored that she would take the initiative to ask me to mentor her. I believe I said, “Yes! I’d love to.’”

Linda’s reaction to Alendra’s request is one of the exciting elements of YIM. Mentees are recruiting adults in their support system who may not have considered formal mentoring, but who are willing and eager to invest in a youth’s future when asked by a young person they already know. “I see a lot of potential in Alendra and believe that, as her mentor, I have a unique opportunity to encourage and challenge her to reach that potential and to see beyond her circumstances. I want her to know that she has people in her life that are there for her and that believe in her,” said Linda.

Mentees select mentors for different reasons, but most often because the adult is part of their community. The adult is typically a former teacher, school official, coach, family friend, or neighbor.  Linda connected with Alendra through basketball, but also through their mutual participation in a local faith-based community empowerment program.  They use this connection to give back to the community. “We do a lot of volunteering. Linda does that a lot. I hadn’t really done stuff like that before,” said Alendra.  When they aren’t volunteering, Alendra and Linda spend their time cooking, baking, creating art projects, and going to basketball games.

While Alendra and Linda have only been matched for five months, their relationship has been mutually impactful on both of their lives. “Alendra has shown me the beauty of resilience and perseverance. She continues to grow and it amazes me each time.  She has also taught me a lot through her thoughtful actions. She’s shown me that even when your circumstances may be less than ideal, you can still think of others,” said Linda. Alendra recommends mentoring to her other friends. “Having a mentor is a lot of fun: you get to do things that you haven’t been able to do or learn about. Since I’ve had a mentor, I have been making better choices.”

Linda is excited to be part of Alendra’s journey and wants her to always remember a very important message: “You are beautiful inside and out. God has big plans for your life and I cannot wait to see them unfold. Continue to go hard in all that you do and don’t be limited by your circumstances. Stay humble. Keep learning. Always be grateful. Never give up. I’m here for you, cheering you on!”


9 million young people in America are in need of a trusted adult in their lives to guide them in moments big and small. Join the In Real Life movement and become an advocate, make a donation or become a volunteer.

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