YMCA shares how mentors provide caring relationships and help youth process challenging life and world events

Minneapolis, MN – The YMCA, a leading nonprofit dedicated to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, shares how mentoring and supportive relationships matter now more than ever because many people are experiencing social isolation and navigating new financial and social challenges. Mentors are safe and non-judgmental people who provide a listening ear, help process challenging life and world events, and provide connections to resources.

As mentoring has shifted to online and remote mentoring in many cases due to the pandemic, a text or Zoom call from a mentor can be just as powerful as time spent in person especially during a time when young adults and youth are experiencing isolation and families are experiencing challenges. Formal and informal mentors can spread fact-based information to prevent virus spread, connect mentees to resources such as mental health support, and support the process of navigating new systems such as unemployment benefits or distance learning tools.

See video about new ways of mentoring: YMCA New Ways of Mentoring

“Mental health and emotional wellbeing have been significantly challenged for many people during this period of time with the pandemic and social unrest,” said Jenny Collins, executive director at YMCA of the North. “It is important to have mentors in our community, checking up on young people to make sure they are coping, and proving support, resources, and even intervention when needed. These mentoring relationships can provide a protective factor for both mentor and mentee by providing hope, connection, and a supportive person with a perspective outside of your daily lived experience.”

Collins added a few things to understand about the role of mentoring if someone is a mentor or wants to become one. Mentors that represent the diverse backgrounds of young people across the community and mentors who are committed to growing their own cultural competence have a powerful role to play. Many people have had a teacher, supervisor or coach who has been a mentor and made a positive difference in their lives. Those people wore many hats, acting as role models, cheerleaders, advocates and friends. Mentors assume these different roles during the course of a relationship and share some basic qualities:

  • Sincere desire to be involved with a young person
  • Respect for young people
  • Active listening skills
  • Empathy
  • Ability to see solutions and opportunities
  • High expectations for the potential of every young person
  • Flexibility

During the pandemic, some of the innovative Y programs created to ensure mentors and mentees can still meet include:

  • Y Mentors – KidsZoom - Y Mentors zoom into afterschool programs engaging youth in fun and active games that promote overall wellbeing and positive character development.
  • Y Mentors – Comic Book Club - Y Mentors zoom into afterschool activities, engaging youth in learning opportunities to draw, make up stories (superheroes and manga) and create their own comic books.
  • Take5 for Mental Health - Youth engage with college mentors in a Youth Participatory Research model to discover and discuss mental health stigma and its impact on youth. All youth participants receive a mental health plan and resources.
  • Y Remote College Readers - College students have weekly virtual visits to classrooms and community centers with the intent to read a story book, engage in a question and response regarding the story, and the spelling of 3 Site words together.  Youth have the opportunity to engage with the college students throughout the visits.
  • Y Cards4Kids Pen Pal program - Young people in classrooms and community settings have the opportunity to have a college Pen Pal mentor for the school year. A once a month exchange occurs which encourages the young people to feel less isolated and more connected to caring young adults.
  • Y Collegiate Achievers Program (Y CAP) + Service – Y Cap program provides a supportive community for students who identify as underrepresented in higher education. Peer mentors are provided as well as professional mentors from the University YMCA and greater community. 

The YMCA offers an array of youth-oriented programs for all ages and backgrounds, including:

  • Child care programs for kids ages six weeks to five years to learn and grow from trained teachers and early childhood experts
  • School Age Care programs, including Beacons in Minneapolis and Richfield, and School Success in St. Paul, that provide engaging enrichment programs before and after school and allow young people to learn from positive adult role models outside the classroom
  • Camps that allow young people to develop relationships with caring counselors while experiencing the great outdoors
  • Youth sports programs that provide opportunities to build confidence and gain new skills while receiving encouragement and support from Y coaches 
  • Teen Thrive programs that allow older youth to experience leadership opportunities and learn from Y team members
  • Youth Intervention Services, which connects young people facing barriers with Y life coaches who provide resources and support to encourage future success
  • University YMCA, where college students serve as near peer mentors to youth in schools and community centers near campus, inspiring youth to explore their dreams for college and career in their future. The University YMCA also provides peer-to-peer support for students from underrepresented communities on campus, including first generation college students.
  • YMCA Center for Youth Voice encourages students from across the state to participate in experiential learning opportunities where they can discover their voice, identify issues that matter to them and learn to take action

Because the Y is a leading nonprofit committed to helping all young people thrive, financial assistance is available to those in need. With the generous support of community members, the Y ensures that all have the opportunity to participate. To learn more about the Y’s programs, please visit ymcamn.org.

About the YMCA of the North

The YMCA of the North is a leading nonprofit dedicated to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Established 165 years ago, the Ys provide life-strengthening services across the greater Twin Cities metro region, southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin communities. The 29 Y locations and program sites, eight overnight camps, 10 day camps, and more than 90 child care sites engage more than 370,000 men, women and children of all ages, incomes and backgrounds. To learn more about the Y’s mission and work, visit www.ymcanorth.org.