Changing with the Times: Community-Based Mentoring

In 1971, not a single shelter specifically serving runaway youth existed in the state of Iowa.

In 1972,

that changed when YSS founder George Belitsos opened the first runaway shelter (which later became Rosedale shelter) in the basement of an Ames church. His dream was “to have a comprehensive, broad-ranging youth-serving agency, a one-stop shop.” YSS then was called Youth and Shelter Services. Since then, YSS has expanded its programs to serve a myriad of youth needs; from Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention to Human Trafficking Resource Center to Adoption and Foster Care Services, alongside many others, including a Mentoring Program.

By 1999,

mentoring was only just beginning for YSS at one small Boone elementary school. Since then, mentoring has expanded to elementary and middle schools all across neighboring counties. The YSS Mentoring Program has become a success for the communities it exists in, and the data proves it.

In the last 17 years, 

hundreds of mentor and mentee matches have been made for youth in area schools - including matches for George Belitsos and YSS’ new CEO, Andrew Allen. As a mentor himself, Andrew Allen eventually began to consider the idea of bringing mentoring to YSS’ clients with the highest need: those in residential treatment centers that had helped him as a young man, and runaway shelters like Dr. Belitsos had identified such a need for back in 1972. This would mean transforming the traditional school-based mentoring programs into a community-based model that could thrive beyond the classroom.

Andrew thought that a community-based mentoring model would be best championed by someone from the outside, someone who could bring fresh ideas and a new perspective into the organization.

Coupling this with the fact that the current school-based staff is fully stacked with mentees ages five to fourteen and mentors ages fifteen to seventy, Future Leaders in Action was the perfect opportunity to bring this new idea to life.

This is where I come in!

We’ve made it to present day, Fall 2016, and I’m working with FLIA and YSS to keep furthering the original dream of “helping the next generation soar to a brighter future”!  

I want to help bring the triumphs from school-based mentoring model and take it beyond school walls into the Ames community.

Naturally, we’re beginning at Rosedale, the organization’s first shelter.

By October 1st, five mentors will have been matched with clients from Rosedale shelter. They will meet for one hour, once a week. Each mentor will go through a comprehensive and specific training program where they will learn about the history of Rosedale shelter, how to be a good mentor, and how to enact Trauma-Informed Care in their mentoring relationships.

Comprehensiveness is our real goal with this program; in fiscal year 2015, YSS provided services to 5,839 clients.

2,018 of those clients only received one service from YSS. We want to make that number as close to zero as we can.

I know that the FLIA and YSS partnership will help to close that gap, and bring confidence, self-respect, and friendship to kids in constant flux now and in the future.