By Kallee Nielsen
Every week Anica Thomas whisks her 10-year-old friend away from a world of family problems and elementary school.
And Anica temporarily escapes her life as a BYU student.
The friends go shopping, out to eat, to museums, plays and service activities. They cook together and participate in 4-H activities.
Thomas, 21, a junior from Fayettevile, N. C., majoring in marriage and family therapy, is a member of the Youth and Families with Promise 4-H mentoring program.
She became a mentor because she wanted to be involved in the community.
She said her experience thus far has been rewarding.
“Mentoring is an extension of yourself, Thomas said. “You”re actually making a difference in a child”s life.”
A component of the Utah State University Extension and Utah County 4-H, Youth and Families with Promise 4-H (YFP) is a community program that serves youth ages 10 -14.
The program”s mission is to help so-called “at risk” youth to develop skills and values that will help them become resilient to negative influences, said Amy Hackworth, program director.
The program focuses on helping youth improve academic performance, increase interpersonal competence and strengthen family bonds, she said.
“The youth in our program are fun-loving, caring kids who need extra support and encouragement regarding academic, social, and sometimes family behaviors,” she said.
Hackworth said she doesn”t like to use the term “at risk” because of its negative connotation.
“These are not hard-core kids,” she said. “But they have negative factors in their lives that create a risk for certain behaviors.”
The factors in their lives that put them “at-risk” include single parent situations, low-income families, parents with low education levels, lack of structure or discipline in the home, low self-esteem and low achievement at school.
The program focuses on prevention rather than intervention, she said.
“The support of mentors can change their lives,” she said
The mentors show the youth more options for their lives, she said.
“For most of the kids in our program this is the first time they”ve ever interacted with someone who has attended college,” Hackworth said.
“Kids see that it is possible for them, too, and that”s really powerful.”
Doug Ludington, 22, a sophomore, from Helper, Utah majoring in nursing, said he sees himself as a role model for the 9-year-old boy he has mentored for one year.
Pointing to the role models of his own childhood, Ludington said he hopes to make a lasting impact in the life of the boy who is currently struggling in the aftermath of his parents” divorce.
“I don”t think big changes come immediately, but I see little changes,” he said.
The two enjoy bowling, ice-skating, horse riding and playing football together, he said.
According to a 1995 Big Brother, Big Sister Impact Study, Youth with mentors are 46 percent less likely to start using drugs, 27 percent less likely to start using alcohol and 52 percent less likely to skip school.
Mike Lee said he has seen the 11-year-old boy he mentors grow socially and become friendlier since he began working with him.
Lee, 22, a junior from Pasadena, Calif. majoring in history, said the boy he mentors had behavioral problems and frequently got in trouble for picking fights.
In the hour per week Lee has spent with the boy, Lee said he has seen a transformation.
Each youth in YFP is assigned a young adult mentor as well as an adult couple referred to as “grandmentors,” Hackworth said.
Young adult mentors meet with the youth one-on-one once a week.
They receive a stipend of $15 a month to pay for activities and supplies, she said.
Grandmentors meet with the youth and their families about twice a month and complete family strengthening activities, she said.
Youth, parents and mentors participate in monthly group activities.
Youth are also encouraged to participate in 4-H activities including horse riding, sewing and cooking, she said.
Rand Champion, 23, a senior from Sandy, Utah majoring in communications said, “Mentors give kids a direction to look towards and help keep them out of trouble.”
For students interested in mentoring, a mentor recruitment party will take place on Tuesday, January 15 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Elizabethan Lounge, next to the step-down lounge in the SFLC.
Mentor programs from the Utah Mentor Network, including Safety Net Mentoring, One to One, Children”s Justice Center, CASA and Youth and Families with Promise, will attend.