Authored by Anne Schmidt, SLCO Youth Services Prevention and Outreach Supervisor Alyssa Childs, Youth Services Peer Mentor
Keeley Bierwolf, Christmas Box International-JourneyUP Mentor Project (JUMP) Manager
At Salt Lake County Youth Services, peer mentors are hired to help with our prevention groups, Milestone Transitional Living program and Afterschool program. The peer mentors are youth that have been involved with one of our prevention groups or other programs such as Strengthening Families, Discovering Possibilities, Real Deal, substance abuse, have lived at Milestone, or have participated in the Afterschool program that allow them to be involved in the group in more of a leadership role. These youth are given training on group dynamics, being a leader and a good example and are given the opportunity to gain work experience. January is National Mentoring month and to honor this month, we asked one of our peer mentors (Alyssa) to write about her experience working as a peer mentor and what being a peer mentor and a mentor in general means to her.
I was recently asked what peer mentoring means to me and I sat there for a minute and pondered the questions. The only thing I could think of was someone who teaches you valuable life lessons, but then I started thinking about times when someone helped me through a bad situation and I thought of them as my peer mentor.
I don’t believe there’s just one definition to describe every peer mentor and I know that for most, their idea or definition isn’t the same as mine or yours or anyone’s. I don’t think a peer mentor is just someone who’s around to teach people lessons on how to live a good, yet productive life. For me, a peer mentor needs to be someone who understands me and what I’ve been through so that they can relate and help me to better myself like they have. Trust is a huge part because it builds the bond and creates a better relationship between the two. They need to know that you’re there for them regardless of what the situation is.
Most people can read that and say “hey, I have all of those qualities, I guess that means I’m a good peer mentor” but like I stated above; the definition is different for everyone. I do believe that almost everyone who needs a peer mentor needs someone who is understanding, sympathetic, and just an all-around good person. We all need someone who we can lean on when times get tough and that can be anyone.
Your peer mentor can be your mom, your grandma, your best friend, or even your teacher. If they know how to help you through your hardest times and set a good example for you, they’re most likely what you should think of as a mentor.
If you are interested in the peer mentor program please contact Anne Schmidt at 385-468-4528 or check our website at youth.slco.org.
Youth Services also partners with The JourneyUP Mentor Project (JUMP) with The Christmas Box International serving young people in the Salt Lake Valley between the ages of 17-24. Those who we serve have been formerly in foster care or facing homelessness. Through our program we are able to match these young adults with a volunteer mentor to help them transition to successful independent living which is a good example of what the Milestone Transitional Living Program fosters. Along with a mentor we also provide life skill workshops and activities in the community each month.
To become a mentor you have to be at least 25 years of age, be able to pass a background check, and be committed to at least one year of volunteer service. We are always looking for mentors and people who are willing to volunteer.
If you are interested in learning more about the JourneyUP Mentor Project please email Keeley Bierwolf at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 801-755-3735.