Disclaimer: Today’s episode was previously recorded and focuses on the importance of mentoring in parks and recreation. While we recognize some of the topics discussed on this episode are more difficult to implement at this time during the COVID-19 pandemic, we encourage you to think of creative ways you can continue to connect with your community, while following all local, state and national ordinances and guidelines. NRPA is actively monitoring developments around the current COVID-19 pandemic and how it is impacting parks and recreation — head to our Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) web page for the most up-to-date information on our response, as well as resources from NRPA, health organizations and federal agencies
One in three young people in the U.S. reaches age 19 without a mentor of any kind. This includes the nine million at-risk youth who are missing the critical support and connections that mentoring can provide. But, park and recreation agencies are closing this gap by offering one-on-one and group youth mentoring programs and helping at-risk youth gain access to quality mentors.
To assist in this work, NRPA recently launched an initiative dedicated to developing and implementing a mentorship program for youth impacted by the opioid crisis in rural Central Appalachia. One community that has felt this crisis heavily is Elizabethton, Tennessee, where many people have been impacted in some way, either directly or indirectly through family and friends struggling with substance-use disorder. The impact of this crisis on the youth in Elizabethton was even recently covered in a New York Times article and includes perspectives from one of our guests today and the work she is doing. In places facing similar issues, park and recreation professionals often serve as mentors and the one caring adult for children who experience adversity and trauma in their households or community.
On today’s episode, we’re joined by Kelly Kitchens, the program/special events coordinator for City of Elizabethton Parks and Recreation Department, and Lauren Kiefert, an NRPA program specialist, to talk a little about NRPA’s Mentoring in Parks and Rec initiative and the critical work being done in Elizabethton.
We discuss what mentoring means to each of them and how mentorship has shaped the person they’ve each become. Other questions we tackle in this episode include:
- What does a mentoring program need to look like in an area that has been hit hard by the opioid crisis as Elizabethton has?
- Why is it important to implement mentoring programs into existing park and recreation offerings?
- How do we ensure the importance of mentoring stays relevant?
- What is the future of mentoring in parks and recreation?