More male mentors needed for children at Atlanta-area residential campus
It didn’t take long for Katrina Word to realize the children at the Youth Villages-Inner Harbour Campus needed to see how much those in the community cared about them.
“They were thirsty for outside attention,” she said. “They behaved so well with outside people and individual attention.”
Not long before that, Katrina was a manager at a local bank and decided to change careers.
“You don’t walk away from finance, but I realized I didn’t want to do it any more,” she said. “I wanted to help children and saw an opportunity to pursue my dream.”
She returned to school and earned a second degree, then went to Youth Villages-Inner Harbour as an AmeriCorps volunteer. That was when she saw the need for a mentoring program. Katrina has grown the program from a few mentors and mentees to more than 40 children with mentors. In addition to the mentoring program, she hosts corporate visits to the campus as well as helping with development and community outreach.
But through mentoring, Katrina sees the biggest effect on the children.
“One child at Youth Villages-Inner Harbour was from another state,” she said. “He didn’t have family and friends visiting regularly, and like most teens, wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life. One of the teacher-counselors at Youth Villages-Inner Harbour agreed to become his mentor. They talked a lot and worked out together at the mentor’s gym. The mentor asked the boy to strive for more, and now this young man is attending college near his home. He needed a male role model, and thanks to our mentor, this young man found avenues to success he would’ve never thought of on his own or in a group setting. It took that one-on-one time with a mentor for him to begin to realize his potential.”
Mentors go through a background and reference check and are then matched with a child with complementary needs or interests. They meet at least one hour each week with their mentees.
“We’re not asking for a mentor to be a preacher or a parental figure,” Katrina said. “The children just need someone to be there and spend time with them. It is amazing to see how the kids transform through mentoring.”
One mentor went through training and became a foster parent for his mentee, eventually adopting him. The mentee mentioned earlier is pursuing a degree to become a youth counselor or social worker.
“Our mentors are incredible, and every one of them brings their own magic,” Katrina said. “The children do better in school, but most importantly, the kids are happier.”