During his ten years as a youth pastor, Darren Heil learned about some of the challenges teens face when emotional support isn’t readily available at home. He enjoyed his role of being a positive adult role model and knew that other caring adults would, too. His passion became finding a way to bring the community together to make a difference for the next generation.
Heil began developing the Youth Mentoring Initiative (YMI). He launched his first local program at Fishers Junior High School is 2010, followed by a program at Fishers High School less than a year later. “Schools are the ideal facility in which to provide mentoring to students because students feel that they can speak the truth,” said Heil.
Fishers Fire Chief Steve Orusa is beginning his third year as a YMI mentor. After hearing Heil speak about the program at a church service, Orusa knew that he wanted to participate. He now serves on the YMI Board of Directors. Because of his work in public safety, Orusa has seen how the need for acceptance can lead kids to risky behaviors, regardless of academic performance and wealth status. “Group conformity is in, morals and accountability are out. With my mentees, I talk about understanding one’s own integrity and how to hold themselves accountable,” said Orusa.
The YMI program succeeds because of its focus on helping kids with social challenges and confidence issues. “To be a mentor, you need to be able to provide encouragement without conditions,” Orusa explained. He has observed that after kids have a foundation of values intact, they can get through both the good and the bad things that happen. “Mentoring adults have an opportunity to make a difference in the community, and impact the future,” he said.
The participating schools provide YMI with names of students who could benefit from the program. Mentors and mentees are paired based on answers both provide on a compatible life and interest inventory. Common experiences will allow mentors and mentees to bond. Mentoring sessions are held at the school in a comfortable, private setting.
Lorna Goodwin, the assistant manager at The National Bank of Indianapolis in Fishers, has always had a soft spot for kids. As the mother of three grown children, she felt that she could provide support and guidance for youth in need. When the Fishers Chamber of Commerce reached out to business leaders to mentor for YMI, she knew that she wanted to help. Goodwin spent one semester as a mentor and looks forward to continuing with the program. “Initially, I was surprised by the need for kids to establish a big picture view,” said Goodwin. Mentors share with their mentees how they’ve dealt with a similar problem or situation in their lives, a divorce or loss of a parent, for example. “The kids who are referred to the program are often not setting goals and making good choices. They don’t see that by making choices, certain doors open and others close. Or, how passing Algebra class is the ticket to getting a diploma. They tend to exist in the moment,” said Goodwin.
YMI provides training sessions and weekly discussion points. Mentors also get feedback from other mentors. Helping these kids is a positive thing for the mentors, too. “I spend an hour a week with my mentee, and the time flies by, and you do feel like you contribute,” said Goodwin.
Hamilton Southeastern School Board President, Diane Eaton, is looking forward to her first session as a mentor. “I’m at a good point in my life to give back to the community,” said Eaton. She sees great value in the YMI program. “The Fishers demographic is changing, and families are changing as a result of our economic reality. Young people need our support and guidance as families deal with struggles,” said Eaton.
YMI is looking for more mentors. “We want to add 25 people this semester because we’re starting a new program at the HSE Freshman Campus,” said Heil, who stressed that volunteers are not counseling professionals, just caring adults. “We are recruiting. We want more volunteers and would love to find a corporate sponsor for the organization as a whole so that we can continue our vision with the highest level of service, integrity, encouragement and empathy,” Heil added.
On Saturday, October 12, YMI is hosting the Ultimate Dodgeball Challenge fundraiser to benefit the YMI school-based mentoring programs. “We wanted to do something fun and inclusive. Fun competition is good!” said Heil.
To find out how to share your life to change a life and learn more about becoming a YMI mentor, contact Carla Hayden at Carla@ymionline.org
The Ultimate Dodgeball Challenge on October 12 at Incrediplex located at 6002 Sunnyside Rd., Indianapolis. Registration deadline is September 30. The event offers three divisions —high school, all male, co-ed. Teams are limited to an eight-player minimum and a ten-player maximum. Prizes will be awarded for first, second, and third place. Price is $35 for students and $50 for adults and includes an event T-shirt. For rules and registration, visit www.ymionline.org/udc