Spotlight Program


May 2014


Chicago, Illinois

Since its founding in 2001, Holy Cross’ Mentoring program has built lasting, nurturing relationships between the program’s volunteer mentors and neighborhood young people. The program instills in them a sense of dignity, success, and self-pride by giving them the skills and tools necessary to be healthy, contributing members of the community.

The Mentoring program serves approximately 80 kids in small groups of 10-12. These groups are divided by gender and age range to address differing life experiences and developmental issues. Groups meet weekly to build a vital, stable foundation for each member based on trust and learning. Young people connect with a mentor to discuss personal values, the power of good decision-making, and how to build hope into actual options for their future.

With the consistent support of positive role models, many young people in the program begin to achieve increased academic success. As students start to do well in school, they often have a corresponding decrease in their contact with the criminal justice system. With a high school diploma and a clean or reformed criminal record, a young adult is significantly more likely to get and keep a stable job to support a functional family.

Meetings start with open discussion where the teens can talk about topics of their choosing, before transitioning to a more mentor-directed discussion about a predetermined topic. Mentors occasionally invite speakers to visit the group to offer additional guidance to the youth. Past speakers have included police administrators, parole officers, lawyers, and school principals.

Additionally, mentors spend time working on life and social skills. For the older participants, they devote time to job skills, teaching the program participants how to conduct themselves in a job interview and how to dress and speak appropriately in the workplace.

They also give participants vocation tests to cultivate an awareness of their interests and talents and how these might match possible careers. Throughout the life-skills training, mentors stress the importance of academic achievement and work experience to get the youth more actively engaged in their academics or, for some, just get them back into school.

Over the last few years, the parish staff has seen a dramatic reduction of violence in the neighborhood thanks in no small part to the relationships built by their mentors. Many of these kids have no one at home they are trying to please, no one to make proud of them or anything they achieve. This Mentoring program, like all of Holy Cross’ programs, gives participants people who know them well and are proud of them.

Want to give young people the opportunity to see positive places for themselves in their community? Make a donation specifically to Holy Cross’ Mentoring program.

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