To ensure that quality mentors and mentor programs are available for Alexandria's youth and young adults in need by maximizing mentor recruitment, screening, and training
Every child and young adult in need in Alexandria has a quality mentoring relationship.
In 2006, a series of community meetings involving the Alexandria Court Service Unit, City departments, school officials and community stakeholders were convened in an attempt to gain feedback from residents on how to enhance resources for youth. A theme surfaced: more positive adult role models were needed for Alexandria girls and boys.
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 programs.
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 VISTA, granted to build mentoring program capacity and improve recruitment efforts. The VISTA currently fields all mentor referrals, stages recruitment events and builds community partnerships.
The work 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 one year.
Mentoring takes many forms:
- one-on-one mentoring or group mentoring
- on-site or off-site mentoring
- social or academic mentoring
- elementary, middle school or high school mentoring
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.