Mentorship program for Ypsi-area kids affected by incarceration expands, seeks new volunteers

A program that focuses on mentoring Ypsilanti-area children impacted by incarceration is expanding and seeking new volunteers.


About 12 mentors worked with 30 pupils during a six-week pilot of The Village Project at Ypsi Township's Erickson Elementary in May and June of 2018. The program was successful enough that Ypsilanti Community Schools administration not only decided to continue the program, but asked that it be made available to more students.


Erickson principal Kelly Mickel says the program will definitely be expanded to Ypsi Township's Holmes Elementary School and she hopes the program can also work with middle school students in the district's Achieving College and Career Education program. The Village Project will also now serve a variety of at-risk students, not just those affected by incarceration, Mickel says.


School administrators are focusing on kids who are struggling in school, either socially or academically. The pilot program involved group activities and one-on-one mentoring on life skills from gardening to communication to coping skills, Mickel says.


"We call our mentors 'success coaches,' and putting kids into The Village Project is a way to help them develop skills to be more successful," Mickel says.


She notes that the program is not only seeking mentors but other kinds of volunteers, including special topic presenters, people to donate food and supplies, and people or businesses willing to help with transportation.


"Transportation is a huge barrier for our families to do any after-school activities," Mickel says.


About seven or eight mentors from the pilot program have said they will return, but expanding to two new buildings means the program needs to add more mentors.


"We will determine how many students we can have in the program based on the number of mentors we get, and the more the better," Mickel says. "If we had 30 mentors in total, each school could serve 15 kids or so with small-group mentoring."


Anyone interested in mentoring youth in the program or contributing in other ways is invited to fill out The Village Project Interest Survey.


Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the interim project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She has served as innovation and jobs/development news writer for Concentrate since early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to Driven. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.


Photo courtesy of the Village Project.

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