Atlanta has a new youth mentoring program thanks to a $1 million federal grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention, an arm of the U.S. Department of Justice. The grant allows national non-profit Southwest Key Programs to expand its Youth Mentoring Program to the Atlanta metro area so that local youth that are involved or at risk of involvement with the juvenile justice system can be connected to caring adults for guidance. The grant comes at a time when the Atlanta metro area is experiencing a shortage of volunteers.
Southwest Key’s Youth Mentoring Program connects youth ages 10-17 with adults to establish and support mentoring relationships that have a long-lasting, positive impact on both the youth and the adult. January is National Mentoring Month and Southwest Key Youth Mentoring Program of Atlanta hopes to recruit local volunteers for experiences like those shared by fifteen-year old Jerome and his mentor Johnny Orange at their sister program in Austin, Texas.
“You’re just talking about giving them a few hours of your time and some advice. I want to let him know that I’ll be here for you and listen to you. They’ve had a lot of hurts and broken promises,” says Johnny Orange, Corrections Officer with Travis County Sheriff’s Department and volunteer mentor with Southwest Key.
Orange decided to volunteer with Southwest Key Programs because he was once a troubled youth himself. Orange was raised by a single mom and started working at the age of 13 while going to school at the same time. Orange attributes his grandfather to helping him get on the right path and mentoring him.
The shortage of mentors in the Atlanta metro area has left many kids, particularly young men of color, with nowhere to turn.
“Johnny Orange is always there for me. He’s helped me a lot with my struggles in life and he’s like my best friend,” adds Jerome, former Southwest Key mentee.
“He’s an incredible kid, I think he’s influenced me more than I’ve influenced him,” says Orange.
Southwest Key is looking for volunteers to spend just four hours a week with a young person in need of guidance.
For more information, visit Southwest Key’s website.