Half century of Mentors Plus

By Shelby Stewart-Soldan
Staff Writer
Brandon Twp. — Next year will mark 50 years of the Mentors Plus program through Oakland County Youth Assistance, and mentors are needed.
“Mentors for Mentors Plus provide Mentees (youth) with a reliable, supportive friend with whom they can have fun, learn life skills and expand their experiences in their communities,” said Julie Stitt, director of the Mentors Plus program. “They also encourage healthy growth and the development of self discipline in youth.”
The program was started in 1973, and since then thousands of matches of mentors and youth have been made. At-risk youth are matched with adult volunteers in their own communities, and mentors offer support and fun activities to help keep youth away from court involvement. The program provides more than 5,000 hours of direct service to youth annually.
Judy Miracle, a member of the Brandon Groveland Youth Assistance, has volunteered as a mentor in the past.
“It’s really rewarding, meeting one-on-one with someone who really needed that face-to-face connection,” said Miracle. “That’s why I joined Youth Assistance.”
While the process is rewarding, she also found it challenging to connect act first with her mentee.
“It’s very challenging to try and find something you can do with the person and make them comfortable,” she said. “Find something you can do together, and once you do that, your relationship can form. Give it a chance. Sometimes you get a nice connection with someone you really can speak with, but if it doesn’t work, try another person.”
Each mentor volunteers to spend a minimum of one hour per week with their mentee, and matches are made based on common interest and location. The mentor and mentee decide together what to do every week, suck as sports, board games, cooking, visiting museums, walking dogs, exploring career opportunities, creating art or anything else they may have an interest in.
“Right now we have more than 20 youth across the county who we have not identified mentors for, but new requests are coming in every week, since the program has reopened for face-to-face meeting after COVID-19,” said Stitt.
To volunteer with Mentors Plus, call Julie Stitt, 248-627-0730 or go to oakgov.com/YA/MentorsPlus to get an application.

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