It’s all about offering oneself for the betterment of another whose future can benefit from a positive influence. The same can be said for the provider whose personal benefit is just as rewarding.
Our Cleveland and Bradley County community is blessed to have a handful of organizations that offer a mentoring outreach of unique purpose and design. One that comes to mind immediately is the longtime partnership between adults and youth provided through 100 Black Men of Bradley County Inc.
Another was founded upon a different concept, yet with a similar purpose; that being, making young people aware of their potential, both personally and professionally. This outreach is the Job Shadowing initiative provided each year by the Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce and a slew of business and corporate partners who share the common vision of making a difference in the lives of teenagers who are beginning to explore the diverse opportunities of the real world.
Other initiatives exist, such as within area churches, community centers and certain educational institutions.
A relatively new one is called YES, an acronym for the Youth Empowered to Succeed program. It is sponsored by the YMCA of Metropolitan Chattanooga and operates through the Cleveland Family YMCA. Currently, YES serves nine counties — Bledsoe, Hamilton, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Polk, Rhea, Sequatchie and Bradley.
YMCA leaders are working to broaden public awareness of the YES program and to beef up the number of adult mentors. Although the Cleveland Family YMCA enjoys a prominent presence within our hometown with a significant membership, its number of YES mentors is lacking.
The issue is not exclusive to Bradley County, but to other communities where civic organizations, businesses and local government are working harder to work together at providing positive role models for youngsters. That’s why Taylor Twomey, YES program coordinator, is reaching out to reach adults in each of these nine counties who might have an interest in serving as a mentor — and yes, a role model.
For those unfamiliar with YES, it focuses on the professional relationship; that is, it calls upon the expertise of professionals to introduce young people to careers that exist within, or outside, their communities.
YES seeks to help local underserved youth ages 17 to 21 by connecting them to career professionals who are willing to share their time, their knowledge and their understanding of existing trades and opportunities. One of the YES goals is to help students make a smooth transition to the career field, and to help adolescents understand what jobs are available and the academic or technical requirements for each.
The importance of involving local business professionals is trust. Young people are more likely to join a mentoring relationship with local adults than with those from outside the community. It is why YES seeks to pair Cleveland youngsters with Bradley County mentors, Chattanooga students with Hamilton County adults, Athens teens with McMinn County business people and the same is true for all cities and counties within the YES service area.
Participants must share at least one mentoring session per month in a public setting. Mentors are asked to provide training with interview prep, résumé assistance and job shadowing. Mentors also are urged to invite their mentees along for appropriate networking events, business meetings and community gatherings.
More information about YES may be obtained by contacting Twomey at 423-266-3766, ext. 274, or sending her an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mentoring a young person can become one of the most rewarding works of volunteerism by an adult.
We urge Cleveland and Bradley County residents to get involved, especially those who already have a client relationship with the Cleveland Family YMCA.