Mentoring Program Receives Federal Grant

Published: December 01, 2015 | Read Time: 3 minutes

Mentoring ProgramFor more than two decades, students from Southern Utah University have proudly served as mentors through Youth and Families with Promise, a homegrown 4-H mentoring program that provides at-risk youth (ages 10-14) and their families with hands-on learning experiences to help them achieve higher levels of academic and social competency. With the recent renewal of a federal grant in the amount of $9.8 million to the 4-H national council, which, according to its website, is the largest youth development organization in the United States, it is clear that the students’ hard work and dedication have paid off.

“Most mentoring programs experience a life span of five years or less,” said Sage Platt, director of the Speech & Presentation Center at SUU and one of the founding figures behind Youth and Families with Promise. “The fact that we have received such a generous grant renewal manifests not only the high esteem in which the government has come to hold us, but also the enormous amount of sacrifice and commitment exhibited by our student mentors. None of this would have been possible without them.” 

Five years ago, the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) sent out requests for program proposals, and the 4-H national council responded with three program recommendations for replication nationwide. One of the three was Youth and Families with Promise. At that point, the level of funding was little more than $1 million. The following year saw funding increased to $3 million. In 2014, the 4-H council received $9.8 million for its three national programs, a substantial sum by any standard. Now in its sixth year, the general trend would suggest that Youth and Families with Promise would be turned back to the local communities for sustainability. However, shortly following the 4-H council’s application submission for this year, Youth and Families with Promise was delighted to yet again see the grant renewed, and in the same amount to boot.  

“The Office of Juvenile Justice has seen the value in what mentors can do for youth and their families,” said Platt. “It is a real feather in the cap of SUU students, whose involvement from 1994 onward has influenced so many lives for good.”

In January 2016, in the spirit of this renewed funding, Platt will join the 4-H national council and USU Youth 4-H Director in Washington, D.C. to conduct live training on all of the elements of youth development, from how to create a successful mentoring program to how to recruit new participants. On top of preparation for that, Platt will continue to run the monthly online director training as well, with this month’s training covering how mentors and staff can develop positive relationships with program participants that increase the likelihood of early self-disclosure on bullying, suicidal thoughts, and other challenges faced by young people today. 

Youth & Families with Promise started at SUU in 1994 after a community-wide survey, proposed by local leaders, revealed that such a program could benefit youth in the area. SUU’s psychology department partnered with Utah State University to form what would initially be a capstone project for students. Soon, the OJJDP took notice of the program’s great success in Iron County and issued its first grant to what would officially become Youth and Families with Promise. From there, the program evolved even further and eventually moved its base of operations north to Utah State in order to leverage the land-grant university’s vast resources and connections. 

Today Youth and Families with Promise operates program sites across 43 states and enjoys full membership in the 4-H national council as part of the OJJDP’s mentoring funding program. SUU students are signed up as mentors by the Iron County extension office and run local mentoring sites under the direction of Utah State University. Through the years, hundreds, if not thousands, of college students nationwide have participated in Youth and Families with Promise, and with the new funding approved, they will continue to play a key role in helping the program further expand its family-oriented, community-building initiatives.

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