National Native American Mentoring Program Receives Continuation Funding to Serve At-Risk Youth
The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) National Native American Mentoring Program was recently approved to receive continuation funding for the mentoring grant that was originally awarded in 2007. This funding supports the implementation of mentoring programs at select Boys & Girls Clubs in Indian Country. The funding will sustain this valuable mentoring program through the fall of 2013.
The National Native American Mentoring Program was first established in 2003 with a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to the Navajo Nation. At the conclusion of this program in 2010, it was operating in twelve Native American Boys & Girls Clubs where it served more than 320 children that had at least one incarcerated primary caregiver in a federal, state, or tribal prison facility. The Navajo Nation distributed funding to twelve Boys & Girls Clubs in the states of Arizona, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. The program sought to establish secure, supportive relationships for children, aged 4 to 18, in order to build their trust, confidence and self-esteem.
In 2007, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) initiated a similar mentoring program as a separate branch under the overall National Native American Mentoring Program. NCAI’s mentoring program is distinct in that all youth in need of a mentor, regardless of their family background, are encouraged to enroll. While NCAI administers the entire project, the program is run locally in partnership with 22 Boys & Girls Clubs located in the states of Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Washington. This program is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Mentoring meetings are held on-site at the Boys & Girls Clubs, where the matched pairs participate in activities such as board games, arts and crafts, sports, homework tutoring, cultural activities and storytelling. Special off-site field trips are arranged to allow the matches to participate in community clean-up days, pow-wows, bowling nights, fishing, cookouts, museum visits, camping trips and other special events.
Sites report noticeable improvements in the behavior and performance of mentees. Mentoring Coordinators have observed that mentored youth are more confident, respectful of others, social, and involved in Club activities. Many of these young people also display increased regular school attendance and improved grades as well as a decrease in discipline referrals and at-risk behavior.
When asked what the greatest successes have been in administering the program, the mentor coordinator for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tahlequah, OK says, "I think just seeing some of the mentees really begin to feel that they fit in. This is largely due to the extra self-esteem they receive from having a mentor." One mentee shared her dream of wanting to ride a horse and was able to have her dream realized on a field trip with her mentor to ride horses. She was "excited beyond words" and said, "…this was a lifetime dream - made to come true by my mentor."
The National Native American Mentoring Program is looking forward to continued success in the upcoming year. Having served over 500 matches combined to date, and with more growth anticipated in the next year, the initiative will reach many more youth in need of extra attention and support.