On August 11 at the Talking Stick Resort, the Life Enhancement and Resources Network (LEARN) and O’odham and Piipaash Fatherhood and Healthy Relationships Program held a workshop for employees and other individuals interested in becoming mentors to youth of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
The workshop was the result of a grant from the Administration for Native Americans (part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) to develop a mentorship program and fatherhood resource center. “We are still recruiting male mentors for the program and have also begun recruiting mentees (enrolled Community youth ages 12-17),” said Kevin Poleyumptewa, Senior Social Worker for the Social Services Department. “This was the first of several training [sessions] our mentors will receive through their participation in the program.”
The purpose of the mentorship program is to promote good self-esteem, character development and life-enhancing values among Community youth.
Michael Connor, Ph.D., from Alliant International University in San Francisco, California, served as the workshop facilitator. He led the group throughout the day into several breakout sessions with brainstorming and group/team activities.
Connor asked each participant what mentoring means to them. One participant answered, “Engagement and involvement in a child’s life, because our youth have not always had good role models.”
“I want to help youth in the Community, and there are lots who are very hesitant to open up with someone,” said Rowena Andreas.
Workshop participant and parent James Smith said he wanted to take away knowledge to be a great mentor to his young son and other youth.
More Effective Communication
A goal of the workshop was to gain a better understanding of adolescents and their development and to improve communication between them and their adult mentors.
Connor asked participants how they communicate, by talking or yelling, and how they would communicate with an adolescent. He asked each participant to find out how their own children made friends with their peers. “It is important your teen knows that they are the teen and you are the adult,” he said. “Kids want structure, [but they] try to fight it.”
The emotions of teen males and females were also discussed, and how fathers need to be present in the lives of both male and female adolescents to provide an important influence that will positively affect their future behavior.
“Point out reality to the teens while mentoring them, because they depend on television shows and music,” added Connor.
He also asked participants to analyze different parenting styles. “How do you change learned behaviors, and how do you avoid drinking and drugs?”
LEARN Manager Aaron Charlie has been working with the Community for more than 10 years. He attended the workshop because he wanted to learn tools to help him become more of an influence to the children in the Community.
“I have worked with youth for over 15 years, and I prefer to work with them because I feel that I can meet them at their level,” said Gina Navarro, a case worker for Social Services.
Caesar Manuel has been attending the Fatherhood Program for a year now; he is a father of four and would like to reach out to teens who are making the same bad choices he once did. He wants them to know that they can change, as he did.
Many youth that the mentors will be dealing with come from dysfunctional homes or troubled families. Many adolescents are under tremendous pressure and nowadays don’t know who they are. Connor said that this is seen throughout all cities with youth of color. “They need to know their culture and identity,” said Connor.
The youth mentorship program is looking to enroll about 30 mentors for the youth in the Community. If you are interested in learning more, please call Kevin Poleyumptewa in Social Services at (480) 362-7551.
Youth mentors must be male, and age 21 or older. They will be required to commit to 12 months of service, with a minimum of four hours per week of interaction with their mentee. They must complete a background check and drug screening prior to being assigned a mentee. Ongoing training for youth mentors will also be provided during the 12-month mentorship period.