Johnny Henderson | Jerry Davich~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 14, 2013 6:12AM
There’s often a difference between being a mentor versus a role model when it comes to our region’s children.
In too many instances, our kids’ role models are not accessible, let alone credible. They typically are superstar athletes, Hollywood celebrities, popular musicians or fictional TV show characters. They come and go like Facebook friends and they have no idea about our kids’ lives or have any feelings for their well-being.
Mentors, on the other hand, typically are adults who make themselves a part of our children’s lives on a regular basis. They talk to them, listen to them, teach them, play with them, laugh with them, protect them and care about them.
We need more mentors and fewer role models, I say.
This brings me to a local mentoring program that can use your help. It’s called the Just Unbeatable Mentorship Program, or JUMP, designed to serve young people ages 6 and up throughout Northwest Indiana.
Administered by The Caring Corner LLC, a Merrillville-based social service agency (www.thecarecorner.com), JUMP has serviced more than 120 NWI youth in individualized and group settings since its inception last year.
Originally known as the Male Youth and Young Adult Mentorship Program, it changed its name due to the growing demand to provide services to girls and young women. It focuses on three primary fronts: Life skills training, tutoring and self-esteem.
Mentors are teachers, social workers and business people, often referred by school principals and local leaders in the child care community. Some of the schools involved include the Glen Park Academy in Gary, Hammond High School and West Side High School in Gary.
“All mentors are required to apply, (they) are background-checked and trained,” said Jeff Williams, administrator for JUMP. “Social workers are referred from a huge team of master level social workers contracted to the parent company, The Caring Corner.”
The mentoring program works this way, Williams said. A principal chooses a teacher to provide tutoring and life skills, with JUMP paying the teacher and training him or her on use of the program’s life skills curriculum. From what I can tell, kids love JUMP and parents need its resources.
“My son really enjoyed it, and it taught him a lot, too,” said Tinene Scott, a single mother from Gary whose 7-year-old son, Michael, took part in JUMP’s weekly mentoring course. “When it was over, he kept asking when he could go back.”
And there’s the rub.
Due to government budget cuts and the grant money used to fund the programs, JUMP may be grounded after only a year in operation. So it launched a fundraising campaign to jumpstart the new school year. Its goal: $5,000.
“This is a call to action to help improve the lives of youth in our community,” Williams said.
Our region’s most valuable and deepest resource isn’t Lake Michigan, the steel mills or the Indiana Dunes. It’s our youth, who will someday soon make the decision to either stay in Northwest Indiana or flee like so many others before them.
It’s programs like JUMP that keep them grounded here by digging in roots that go deeper than outside opportunities.
“We can’t continue to let even one child slip through the cracks,” Williams said.
Your donations will be used to hire more mentors, pay staff, create a stronger online presence and provide more promotional materials to spread the word to families in need.
“Everyone thinks about changing the world, but real change begins at home in our own backyard,” states its fundraising page, at www.indiegogo.com/projects/5000-challenge.
“Our communities throughout Northwest Indiana are in crisis. Once upon a time, this area was thriving with big business and bustling factories, but walk through our communities now and you see remnants of closed down factories and boarded up buildings. Some see that as a license to not take pride in their community or themselves, but we need to show our youth that just because something may seem broken doesn’t mean it is,” the site states.
To make a difference or for more information, visit www.justunbeat
able.org/, or the organization’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/justunbeatable. Or call 884-8484. Watch its promotional video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dn9ZjBLPgR8.
It’s time for more mentors to become role models for our youth. Do you agree?
Connect with Jerry via email, at firstname.lastname@example.org, voice mail, at 713-7237, or Facebook, Twitter, and his blog, at jerrydavich.wordpress.com.