January | February 2016

OJJDP Cosponsors National Mentoring Summit

2016 National Mentoring Summit logoThere is nothing better we can do for our youth than to ensure that they have the chance to connect with dedicated, energetic, and well-trained mentors, according to Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs Karol V. Mason. “The guidance and direction of a caring and respected adult is the key to keeping a young person on a path of responsible, productive behavior, headed to a bright future,” Ms. Mason said during the National Mentoring Summit.

From January 27–29, 2016, OJJDP joined with MENTOR: The National Partnership and other partners to host the annual summit, now in its sixth year. The event—which took place in Washington, DC—brought together nearly 1,000 individuals, including practitioners, researchers, corporate leaders, and representatives of national youth-serving organizations, among others. OJJDP Administrator Robert Listenbee and staff were also in attendance.

In her comments to the attendees, the Assistant Attorney General stressed how mentoring brings guidance to children’s lives and provides them with second chances and new beginnings. She praised the support that OJJDP has demonstrated for mentoring programs.

“I’m proud that the Office of Justice Programs has provided strong support for mentoring efforts, through the leadership of Bob Listenbee and his terrific staff in our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention,” Ms. Mason said. “Since 2011, we’ve made more than $377 million in funding available for local and national mentoring programs and mentoring-related research.”

The 3-day summit featured more than 60 workshops, which touched on a variety of topics within the mentoring field, including research, effective practices, program models, and mentoring strategies for specific youth populations.

Jen Tyson, a social science analyst with OJJDP, led a session with American Institutes for Research principal researcher Roger Jarjoura discussing the interim findings of OJJDP’s Mentoring Enhancement Demonstration Program and how these findings might drive changes in the mentoring field. Dr. Jarjoura is the principal investigator for the evaluation of the program, which supported the development and implementation of new strategies to enhance the advocacy and teaching roles for mentors in 32 mentoring programs across the country.

OJJDP has long been a supporter of mentoring programs. In fiscal year 2015 alone, the Office awarded more than $77 million in discretionary grant funding to support programs around the country, including a focus on programs that support underserved populations.

These underserved populations include tribal youth, youth with disabilities, youth in foster care, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning youth.

Additionally, through the Second Chance Act, OJJDP has funded a grant that focuses on strengthening the relationships between young parents and their children as they transition from correctional facilities back to their families and communities. Mentoring programs have shown to be a promising form of support for youth with incarcerated parents. It is estimated that 1.7 million youth in this country have at least one parent currently in prison and millions more have a parent in jail.

OJJDP also supports advancing mentoring research, which includes investigator-initiated and demonstration projects to move the field toward evidence-based and effective practices for youth mentoring.

In 2015, OJJDP partnered with MENTOR to launch the National Mentoring Resource Center. The center supports effective youth mentoring programs through training and technical assistance, a research board, and an interactive website.

Recently, OJJDP unveiled a new feature within the National Mentoring Resource Center that highlights what research says about specific mentoring programs and their target populations. The first review focuses on group mentoring, where one or more mentors are matched with a group of youth for a shared mentoring experience.

January marks the 14th annual National Mentoring Month, a nationwide campaign that aims to recruit mentors and focus national attention on the importance of those working together to ensure positive outcomes for youth.

Kerri Strug: From Olympic Hero to Youth Mentoring Champion

Kerri Strug has always had a connection with children.

Whether it’s because of her height—she’s 4’8”—or her high-pitched voice, the Olympic gold medalist gymnast who captured national attention with her courageous performance at the Atlanta games in 1996 says children have always been drawn to her and she’s been drawn to them.

Strug is currently an OJJDP program manager where she works with about 20 national, multistate, or collaborative mentoring programs.

“For a long time, my focus was on myself and my goals,” Strug said. “Once they were realized, I thought it was important to look at the larger picture and give back.”

After graduating from Stanford University, Strug taught at an elementary school in the Bay area. She joined OJJDP in 2005 as a special assistant, and says she was “very fortunate” to find the opportunity to work with the Office. She has served as a program manager since 2007.

Strug, who is based in Tucson, AZ, works with mentoring programs around the country that run the gamut in terms of their focus, but include those that support underserved or at-risk youth, and are school- or community-based programs.

In her role as a program manager, Strug maintains contact with OJJDP grantees throughout the year, making site visits to meet with grantees, the youth they serve, and parents or guardians of children in the programs, per OJJDP policy.

“They’re passionate about helping youth,” Strug said of the mentoring grantees.

She added that the funding is just one aspect of OJJDP’s support for mentoring that she appreciates. Just last year, OJJDP partnered with MENTOR to launch the National Mentoring Resource Center. The website provides valuable information not just for grantees but for everyone in the mentoring field, Strug empasizes.

As someone who benefitted from having great role models and a supportive family, Strug realizes how youth with a solid mentor can be led in the right direction. Although her coach, Bela Karolyi, may not have been a traditional mentor, he was someone who supported and believed in Strug.

At the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Strug was a member of the first U.S. women’s gymnastics team to win the all-around gold medal. One of the everlasting images from the Atlanta games was of Karolyi carrying Strug up to the medal stand to receive her medal after an ankle injury on her second-to-last vault.

“Clearly, he had a huge impact on my life,” she said.

Resources:

More information about the 2016 National Mentoring Summit is available online.

To access further mentoring resources, visit OJJDP, MENTOR, the National Mentoring Resource Center, and read a recent blog post from Administrator Listenbee.