NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Arkansas National Guard’s Youth Challenge Program is in dire need of mentors, like Brianna Love.
She used to work for the program but decided to become a mentor after getting a new job. Brianna met her 16-year-old mentee Shekinah Jones just five short months ago when Shekinah was a cadet in the military-style program.
“She’s great overall,” Shekinah said about her mentor.
For six months, Shekinah lived in barracks on Camp Robinson and went through classes, physical fitness, and job skills training. She credits the program for teaching her important life lessons like having an open mind, positivity, structure, and discipline.
The ultimate goal is for the teens to either get a GED or return to high school. Shekinah chose to get her GED and move on to college at UA Little Rock at the young age of 16, but none of that would have been possible without her mentor, Brianna.
“To see that she’s adopted this new mindset, it’s been very inspiring,” Brianna said.
One requirement of the Youth Challenge is every cadet must have a mentor and right now the program is in need of at least 20 adults willing to take that challenge. Mentors must contact their cadet four times per month. That can be a simple phone call or doing an activity together.
“Kids aren’t listening to mom and dad all the time, but they will listen to someone outside the home,” Youth Challenge Mentor Coordinator Christina Raatz said. “And if we found somebody who’s willing to push them in a positive direction and keep them on their goals and on their track, that’s exactly what this is for.”
While the mentors are there to guide the cadets, the experience is often rewarding for both parties.
“She’s been influential on me as an adult just looking at her overcome so much in her life just the few months that I’ve known her,” Brianna said.
The two are both shy people, but they quickly forged what they believe will be a lifelong bond.
Click here for more information on becoming a mentor with the Youth Challenge.