YMCA mentoring program to launch

Published 10:15 pm Tuesday, September 20, 2016

By Alaina Denean Deshazo | The Selma Times-Journal
The YMCA of Selma-Dallas County is one step closer to beginning its Reach & Rise mentorship program.

Earlier this year, the YMCA was awarded a $40,000 grant from the Alabama Department of Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention to go toward financing the program and its activities throughout the year.

“We received the grant and now we’re trying to get our mentors recruited so that we can start working,” said Martha Pilcher, Reach & Rise program director.

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Pilcher said the YMCA has a goal to bring together 30 mentor and mentees by the end of the year.

One of those mentors already making the commitment to the yearlong program is Torrey Prescod, a recent graduate from Concordia College Alabama.

During his time at Concordia, Prescod served as the president of the Men’s Center, a mentoring group at the college.

“We would go around to local elementary schools, middle schools, and we would just go mentor little kids,” Prescod said. “I never had like an older brother when I grew up, so when I was in college I saw that mentoring would help other people’s lives, like kids that are in violent homes or don’t have an older brother or older sister to talk to.”

Counselors from local schools will be recommending students to be part of the program. All mentors will have to pass a background check, and all mentoring will take place at the YMCA facility.

“I’m a middle school counselor, and we know at that middle school age, students are becoming tweens. They’re in that in-between stage where they are growing up, they’re leaving the childhood going into adolescence and a lot of times, they can’t understand what’s going on with them emotionally,” said Yolanda Thompkins, counselor at Tipton Middle School. “We have students at our school that I think will really benefit from having a positive adult in their life that they can go to when they have questions, especially outside of school.”

Thompkins said she would be looking for students who have potential but need someone to encourage them along the way.

“I think that we need to find a way to get our teens, our children on the right path. It’s very crucial for the community to come in and do whatever it is positive to get our children back on track to have something to look forward to,” Thompkins said.

“The community working with the school is awesome, and that’s what we need.”

Pilcher said the program is still seeking mentors that are at least 23 years of age and are willing to commit to a full year of service including a 15 hour training period and one to three hours once a week to meet with their mentee.

“Even if they don’t think they have something to offer, I think lots of times, we don’t realize what we could offer to a child that’s in a less fortunate situation,” Pilcher said. “I need mentors that are compassionate, I need mentors that are open minded, dependable. We want people that care about the community and are interested in seeing Selma and Dallas County grow as a community.”

Registration forms for the program are available at the YMCA. Those wanting more information are asked to call the YMCA at 874-9622.