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National Mentoring Month: Reach & Rise Program

“I think mentoring is important because we all have shared experiences regardless of age and where we come from. Mentoring allows us to share those experiences with one another and not feel alone and by yourself. By sharing your experiences, it allows others to open up and even overcome.” -Tina V., Reach & Rise mentor, 5+ years 

Celebrated annually in January, National Mentoring Month is dedicated to raising awareness about the power and impact of mentoring. It is a time to recognize and honor the many contributions of mentors while encouraging people to become mentors themselves. It is also meant to highlight the value of mentoring relationships in various ways such as through educational and personal development, community enrichment, and interpersonal skills while showcasing how mentors can be a positive influence and make an impact in others’ lives. 

Reach & Rise is a national, therapeutic mentoring program that matches adult volunteer mentors (age 21+) with young people. A key feature of the program is the inclusion of parents in the mentoring process, from matching their child to an appropriate mentor to setting goals for the mentoring relationship. Our highly trained mentors meet with mentees once each week to discuss issues occurring in the youth’s life while engaging in enriching activities in the community while youth are referred from schools, counselors, parents and other YMCA programs. Also, program directors and coordinators, such as Vanessa Gonzales who is our group mentor coordinator, provide ongoing mentor, family, and case management support. 

It is a free program established to serve youth's needs not met by existing youth services. It offers over-stressed families a resource to help meet their children’s needs, provides youth with positive, growth-inducing relationships with adults through mentoring, and wants to make a difference in a child’s life. It serves youth (ages 6-17) and their families from a wide range of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. 

Recently, our Marketing & Communications team got to interview some of our mentors to ask them about their experiences and mentoring process, why it is important to them and for our youth, and how our program is making an impact

Here are some of their answers:

“Part of it is volunteering to give back... Another reason is I have always had an issue with mentoring that is only academic. Kids don’t get to talk about their problems or skills to learn how to deal with issues that lead to being incarcerated and bad relationships, and how to deal with them... It is satisfying to see people grow and if you believe in your legacy, it is not about what you take but what you give, and that is how you are remembered beyond your years.” -Cliff Raynes, Reach & Rise mentor, 3+ months 

“We loved doing the project-based assignments with our group of kids. We put maps on the floor for them to interact with games – anything to get the kids active and engaged. We felt really supported by Vanessa who helped create the curriculum each week. We felt like we could just show up and be present for those kids.” -Kylie Aulgur, Tyler Kuo, Darli Ramirez, and Katherine Petts, Reach & Rise mentors, 1 year 

“I like just allowing young people to feel comfortable just being themselves, and safe to be themselves. It is also fun for me. I enjoy going to all the places to explore and relax.” -Noah Glaser, Reach & Rise mentor

“I think of myself as a gardener planting seeds to help the future. Jobs pay the bills but Reach & Rise feeds my soul.” -Aubrey Moore, Urban Services Board Member and mentor, 2+ years 

Like with many of our youth programs and services, we see how our youth have been hugely affected emotionally, socially, and academically by the current conditions that impact their families, schools, and communities. Many of them are struggling to find a space where they can come as they are without the pressure of these external forces and because of this, our Reach & Rise mentoring program ensures that they connect with a mentor who will help them get the support they need to Be, Belong, Become. We want our youth and their families to know that the Y is here for them and to meet their needs.  

To learn more about our Reach & Rise program, visit