Later that spring, the City of Alexandria
also held a Gang Awareness Summit. The 600 attendees provided feedback on how
to better support our City’s youth, and the idea of improving the quality of
mentoring was among the list of suggestions.
That same year, the Alexandria
Community Services Board held its annual public hearing to discuss mental
health and substance abuse issues in the community. At that hearing, community
members, stakeholders and youth in need of mentors came forward to testify. The
consensus was that mentors could improve the health and well-being of the youth
in the community and that Alexandria needed to focus on enhancing its mentoring
Service providers were also
commissioned to examine issues relevant to the youth population and found a
sample of 58 especially at-risk youth of particular concerns. These youth demonstrated
several commonalities: minimal connection to their schools and/or community,
poor academic performance, emotional issues and the lack of any person who had
the time or inclination to focus their attention on that youth.
At the time, mentoring programs were
scattered throughout the City, operating independently and with little
coordination among programs. In an effort to support the work of the several
mentoring programs already in existence, a number of community members, City
employees, school staff and members of the non-profit community initiated a
collaborative partnership of citywide mentoring programs, “The Alexandria Mentoring
Partnership (AMP).” The City’s Gang Prevention Coordinator took on the
responsibility of acting as the AMP Coordinator.
As the AMP learned of the large
number of youth needing mentors, it became increasingly evident that a
full-time staff person was essential to adequately develop the AMP programs in
order to effectively reach all youth in need of a mentor. In the fall of 2009,
a full-time position was created under the Federal Recovery and Reinvestment
Act: The Alexandria Mentoring Partnership Coordinator. The coordinator
developed a number of initiatives including a new AMP website, an increased
public awareness/communications campaign, a database for managing referrals and
a method for ensuring that all AMP programs are implementing quality
programs based on national best-practice models. With the addition of this
full-time position, the AMP was able to manage the volume of referrals of
mentors received from the City of Alexandria.
In 2013, the responsibilities of the
AMP Coordinator transitioned to that of the Court Service Unit’s first Americorps
granted to build mentoring program capacity and improve recruitment efforts.
The VISTA currently fields all mentor referrals, stages recruitment events and
builds community partnerships.
of the AMP ultimately supports close to 300 mentoring relationships each year
by working with eleven different programs. Many entities are involved with the
AMP, including local government, religious, and nonprofit organizations, as
well as the Alexandria City Public Schools, foundations, businesses, local
elected leadership, and individual community members.
Our mentoring programs vary in structure, though the minimum requirements for
mentors include completing an application, a criminal background check, and the
ability to commit to mentoring a child for at least one hour, once a week, for
takes many forms:
- one-on-one mentoring or group
- on-site or off-site mentoring
- social or academic mentoring
- elementary, middle school or high
At the heart of all the AMP programs is the
belief that every child in the city of
Alexandria who needs a mentor should have one.