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Lead4Life, Inc. Mentoring Program: Needs a few good men

Lead4Life, Inc. Mentoring Program
Needs a few good men
By Jennifer LB Leese
Staff Writer

In 2008, after thousands of hours were dedicated to fulfill the mission of non-profit organizations, Jennifer Gauthier decided to begin Lead4Life, Inc., Washington County Diversion Program Mentoring Initiative. Inspired with a vision and determination to help the underserved, Ms. Gauthier set about to secure funding to make Lead4Life, Inc. a reality. Her passion was to help youth and adults in the criminal justice system become productive members of society.
Ms. Gauthier has had her share of life challenges including involvement with the juvenile justice system. Her motivation was to not only make positive changes within her own life but to reach out to others as well. Ms. Gauthier's culminating life experience, to date, is the motivation behind the development of Lead4Life, Inc.
The Lead4Life, Inc. provides individuals with strength-based programs with the hopes of empowering them to improve their quality of life. "We promote empowerment through direct services, advocacy, and education to enhance one's ability to make healthy choices," says Angela St.Clair, program manager.
Youth served are first time non-violent offenders who would benefit from case management in order to prevent involvement in the juvenile justice system.
"Our program uses an intervention strategy, so it's very much putting the work in, in advance." At the intake, the case manager develops a contract with the youth and parent(s) that will outline the specific tasks that the youth is to complete within a 30-day time frame. Both youth and parents' signatures are required on the contract.
"Our mentors are screened heavily," St.Clair explains. "They go through a screening process which includes a criminal background check, motor vehicle check, a personal in-home interview, and personal reference checks."
All of our mentors and mentees, along with their parents, receive two hours of orientation training. They also receive additional in-service training through the course of their relationship. There are fun monthly activities, which encourage relationship development and monthly case management from the program supports the matches.
"There are very specified subsets on teenage and youth population that are underserved - autistic youth, mentally handicapped youths - who really need mentors," St.Clair said. The goal of the mentoring program is to assist youth in a variety of positive decision making such as increasing school attendance, rejecting of negative peer pressure, and diverting youth from future contact with the Department of Juvenile Services.
Currently Lead4Life is in serious need of more male role models for boys ranging from twelve to fifteen years of age. "We're looking for men who enjoy seeing young men prosper, for men who have learned from their past mistakes, men who are good fathers, good brothers," St.Clair said. "We don't want kids on the waiting list for too long, because they'll starting wondering why they aren't being chosen.
"It is time to give back. These children need role models - the boys need a man to show them how to be a man. There's a lot of negative reaction toward men who come into their lives later in life because they didn't have a male figure in their lives while growing up. Now [unfortunately,] they then come across as aggressive.
Going to a baseball game, looking around a museum, spending a summer afternoon at a recreation park, or going to see a movie, are things that most of us don't give a second thought to, but these simple everyday exposures are something that many kids in our community are missing. "This mainly happens because these children are so confined to their own neighborhoods," St.Clair said. "Lots of things factor into why - transportation, comfort levels, no self-confidence to be able to go explore new avenues...that's what we try to offer kids."
Prepare spaghetti, show a fourteen year old how to change oil in the car, play football or basketball, get your nails done - do whatever you want. The mentors are there to help bring out the potential in your child, much like an uncle or big brother would.
"It's true, when a child has a role model, they have better respect for others. They want to be respected and not stereotyped...they want to be pushed to be a better person.
"We're hoping to keep kids out of trouble, in school, and show them positive avenues. Anything you can teach a kid increases their brain power."
Of course, more time is always appreciated and works wonders for your mentee, but one hour a week for one year is required from every mentor. If you feel this isn't for you...then maybe you know someone it would.
Mentors can be anyone - students who are interested in human service fields, ex-offenders who can share their experiences, professionals who want a personal connection with an at-risk youth or those who want to plant a seed and watch it grow.
If you're interested in hearing more call them at 301-791-7314, visit them on Facebook (Lead4Life-Inc-Washington-County-Diversion-Program-Mentoring-Initiative) or stop by the office at 44 North Potomac Street, 3rd Floor, Hagerstown.

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