The Duluth YMCA has been working to meet the physical, mental, social and spiritual health of vulnerable populations through programs and collaborations since 1892. Originally the Y was established to help meet the needs of immigrant populations and later expanded services to include camping, outreach and programs focused on children and families.
Mentor Duluth began at the Y as the “Fatherless Boys Association”, changed its name when girls were included to “Friendship between the Ages” and then in 1997 in conjunction with other youth services agencies in Duluth, became known as the “Mentor Duluth Collaborative”. Mentor Duluth was established to coordinate neighborhood-based mentoring, cut across traditional agency boundaries and serve at-risk youth and their families. The program is a collaboration of seven youth serving agencies including the Duluth Area Family YMCA, the Boys & Girls Club of the Northland, Valley Youth Centers, YWCA Duluth, Neighborhood Youth Services, Proctor Area Community Center and Mentor Superior. Mentor Duluth was created to eliminate duplication of mentoring services among youth agencies while confronting one of the largest needs in the community of placing more positive adult role models in the lives of children.
Strengthened by over 75 years of mentoring experiences, Mentor Duluth Collaborative matches positive adults with young people between the ages of 5-18. Mentors are asked to be a role model, a guide, a resource, and most importantly, a friend to their mentees. Matches are made based on shared interests between youth and an adult with mentors requested to commit to 10 hours a month and be matched for a minimum of one year. Currently the average match meets approximately 3 times a month and lasts 2.6 years. Many of the matches spend their time focusing on things surrounding fun, friendship and healthy lifestyle. A common theme among mentors and matched youth is the exposure to new activities which can range from visiting the Aquarium, searching for waterfalls on the North Shore, to making baked goods.
Many studies have proven the importance of a mentoring relationship in a young person’s life. The SEARCH Institute concluded that the “single most important indicator of whether a child will succeed in life is based on the number of positive adult role models in his/her life”. For Mentor Duluth, by placing caring adults in the lives of children - people who genuinely care about their mentees, allows children with risk factors the additional supports they need to grow into successful adults.
A match story – Emily and Amaria:
Amaria says the best thing about Emily is that “she laughs at my jokes.” Emily replied, “Yeah, she is really funny!” and then recalled the time that Amaria started brushing her hair from the backseat of the car with the car scraper brush. Amaria says that Emily is pretty funny herself, like the time when they were making charm bracelets and Emily said they were “charming,” or when she always says “good deal.” Spend any amount of time with this match and it is immediately evident that they are friends who like to laugh together.
In the 1 ˝ years they have been matched, these two have done a lot of exploring the Twin Ports together—whether that be hiking, biking, swimming, visiting Tom’s Logging Camp or Glensheen. One of the most memorable times that stood out to them was when they went to the Edge Waterpark and it was closed, so they walked down to the lake instead and jumped in wearing their clothes! Another time they heartily recalled was when Emily’s dog, Gabro, was chasing them at the park and he followed Amaria down the slide!
When each was asked to name something the other person has taught them, Amaria answered for both of them. She said “I taught Emily the ‘backway’ to the mall and she taught me stuff about rocks and how to cook lots of things.” Emily said that Amaria is bold and unafraid to express herself, and that is something she is constantly learning from her. “She just does what she wants and is who she is without worrying about what others will think.” Emily says really admires Amaria’s bravery.
When asked about their future plans together, Emily brought up camping. Amaria said, “yeah, that would be fun”… but then after thinking for a moment, said “or we could just build a treehouse and live in it together forever.”
If you are interested in learning more about being a mentor, please click on: www.mentorduluth.org