The City of Memphis on Wednesday (Oct. 3) launched the Mayor's Mentoring Initiative in partnership with the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office and the Memphis Grizzlies Charitable Foundation.
As part of the initiative, city employees will be encouraged to serve as mentors to area youth, either through the District Attorney's Mentoring Program or with one of the organizations that participates in the Grizzlies Mentoring Alliance.
"There are goals we work toward every single day – making sure our children finish high school and go to college, keeping kids away from guns and illegal activity, breaking the chains of intergenerational poverty – and mentors increase our chances of success with each and every one of those goals," said Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr.
"We must tap into this city's greatest asset: the people who live and give here. And we're starting with our own employees."
City divisions and departments will be urged to approve flextime to allow employees to serve as mentors during traditional work hours. City employees who sign up for the Mayor's Mentoring Initiative will also be routinely recognized by the Mayor's Office and the City of Memphis Division of Human Resources.
The District Attorney's Mentoring Program offers an alternative to court proceedings for youth who are habitually truant. The youth essentially enter into a Court Order in which they agree to be matched with a designated mentor instead of facing prosecution.
"My office could handle truancy cases like every other crime. However, we see an opportunity in these situations to not only enforce the law but also enrich the life of a young person," said Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich. "For a minimum investment of time, the City of Memphis employees can make an immeasurable difference in a young person's life."
The D.A.'s program works exclusively with middle school students, and each mentor is asked to interact with their student at least eight hours each month.
"In many instances, our children just need to hear an encouraging word or someone to explain it with a different point of view. That is mentoring," said Memphis City Councilman Harold Collins.
The Grizzlies Mentoring Alliance includes local mentoring programs Girls, Inc., Memphis Athletic Ministries, Memphis PREP Program, Memphis City Schools' CONNECT Mentoring, New Ballet Ensemble & School, and Youth Villages. After filling out a Grizzlies TEAM UP Interest form detailing their interests and availability, volunteers are paired with the organization that best suits them. Grizzlies' partners serve kids ages 10-18 and offer one-on-one, group and team mentoring opportunities.
"Dozens of opportunities to mentor are found within our trusted Grizzlies Mentoring Alliance member programs. We'll match City employees with these programs based upon their interests and availability and work with our partners to ensure they have the training and support to start mentoring," said Jenny Koltnow, executive director of the Grizzlies Foundation.
"We hope to see this initiative connect more young people with mentors and inspire individuals and organizations throughout the city to get involved with youth mentoring."