Hello and welcome to another Lewis and Clark Community College Building Futures YouthBuild AmeriCorps blog post!
All Building Futures staff are trained to be caring mentors for students, while they are in the program. In addition, in order to provide adequate adult support for Building Futures graduates transitioning into employment or college, YouthBuild USA has developed a mentoring model to engage adult volunteers in 15-month mentoring relationships to assist students during this transition.
Building Futures has obtained YouthBuild USA funds from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to create this mentoring model. YouthBuild USA’s goal is to use the OJJDP funds to increase outcomes in program completion and academic achievement for youth and reduce delinquency as well as increase access to quality mentoring. Through this model, Building Futures has been able to provide students with mentoring matches that have been made and supported outside of Building Futures staff.
Building Future’s goal, in addition to YouthBuild USA’s of this work, is to ensure that mentored youth complete the program, enter college, receive increased credentials, provide higher levels of service and leadership to their communities, and in return become mentors themselves.
This brings us to our topic for today of how mentors recently assisted students to complete a service learning and leadership project at the St. Louis District Army Corps of Engineers in West Alton, Illinois.
For those of you clueless as to what the Army Corps of Engineers does, I will enlighten you!
Let’s begin with a brief history lesson. According the US Army Corps of Engineers website, the Mighty Mississippi River, which is more than 2,200 miles long, is the second longest river in the United States and the third largest river basin in the world, exceeded in size only by the Amazon and Congo basins.
During the 19th Century, the rich timber resources lining the riverbanks was used to build rapidly expanding settlements and fuel the steamboat’s boilers, and cleared for agricultural purposes; the great forests were decimated. The riverbanks then became less stable and rapidly deteriorated, and the river widened, making the Mississippi shallower and more difficult to navigate greatly affecting the transportation of goods.
In 1880, Congress directed the Corps of Engineers to correct the disastrous condition of the river by creating and maintaining a safe and dependable navigation channel and returning the river to its once majestic condition.
After many years the Army Corps of Engineers aided in the middle Mississippi river being restored to its original size. In the 21st Century, the Army Corps of Engineers is still performing the duty of maintaining the Mississippi river and one of the dominant modes of transportation of goods; America’s waterways.
So what does the Army Corps of Engineers have to do with Building Futures and mentoring?
The Army Corps of Engineers has been a long time Building Futures service project partner allowing our students the opportunity to apply skills they have learned in our construction lab in practical applications that benefit our community. The Army Corps of Engineers had a wooden deck that overlooks the banks of the Mississippi that needed to be rehabbed.
Building Futures students performed the task of rehab by measuring, cutting and replacing the wooden boards of the deck, which meant more than 500 boards were replaced. Building Futures mentors assisted the students in staining the wood. Mentors participated in this service projects alongside students in support for students to gain AmeriCorps education awards. AmeriCorps education awards are scholarships awarded to students after they have completed 450 hours of community service. Then, the students are awarded $1,515.55 to go towards the expenses of attending college.
Many of us have had mentors in one way or another throughout our lifetime. We have all had people who have given us advice and aided us throughout our journey. The Building Futures students are no different. These students are transitioning throughout life and trying to make good out of a situation that most people deem bad: dropping out of high school.
There are many different reasons why individuals drop out of high school and not all of them are under the individuals’ control. These students need help, support and advice just like everyone else. These students are not lost causes, but instead they are successful people in the making.
There are many successful people who have gotten their GED including: Dr. Richard Carmona (17th Surgeon General of the US), Dr. Story Musgrave (the only astronaut to have flown on all 5 space shuttles), Ruth Ann Minner (2001 Delaware Governor), Dave Thomas (Founder of Wendy’s), Wally Amos (Amos Cookies), Greg Mathis (Lawyer/Judge/TV Judge), and Peter Jennings (ABC News Anchor and Foreign Correspondent) just to name a few.
YouthBuild USA, through OJJDP funding, is giving programs like Building Futures the opportunity to provide mentors to the doctors, lawyers, teachers and future leaders of tomorrow. Building Futures is now able to provide students with a support system of individuals outside of faculty members that are invested in the well-being and success of our students. Mentors go above and beyond the call of duty, even assisting our students in the community service activities like the Army Corps of Engineers deck rehab, lead by example and let students know that even as adults it is important to give back.
Andrea Lamer Executive Director of YWCA of Alton commented on her experiences mentoring Building Futures students.
“The best learning experiences we have are those moments when we share what we know with others,” Andrea said. “When we find youth that are ready to listen and try new things, it’s our responsibility to recognize and invest in them.”
If you’re interested in becoming a mentor and making a change in a young person’s life please contact the me at (618) 468-4159. I look forward to your phone call.
Until the next time signing off……
Community Services Coordinator
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”
~ Dr. Martin Luther King