As community-based providers of health, recreation and social-emotional development services to youth, local park and recreation professionals also function as mentors and role models. Park and recreation staff are called on to mentor and nurture youth in their communities, including troubled, at-risk youth. In times of emerging public health threats, including substance use, trauma, adverse childhood experiences, and rising rates of depression and suicide, parks and recreation are well-suited to build protective factors1 around youth and families and create connections across community.

Formal one-on-one and group mentoring programs, as well as informal mentoring opportunities, support youth in establishing strong connections with compassionate, caring adults and positive role models. Youth who are at-risk of falling off track but have a mentor, are 55 percent more likely to enroll in college, 52 percent less likely to skip a day of school than their peers and maintain better attitudes towards school. Mentoring also plays a role in preventing young people from engaging in harmful behaviors. Youth with mentors are 46 percent less likely than their peers to start using drugs.

Unfortunately, one in three young people in the United States reaches the age of 19 without having a mentor of any kind. This number includes nine million at-risk youth who are missing out on the critical support and connections that mentoring can provide. 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.

Mentoring in Parks and Rec: Overarching Goals

  1. Provide funding, training and technical assistance to local park and recreation agencies and community partners to implement evidence-based, youth mentoring programs with a specific focus on supporting youth impacted by substance misuse, youth experiencing trauma and adverse child experiences (ACEs), and youth from historically disenfranchised populations.
  2. Collaborate with partners to develop turn-key resources and tools to help professionals implement high-quality mentoring programs that support family engagement, career development, community service, and leverage the role of parks and recreation as Community Wellness Hubs.
  3. Provide field-wide training and professional development opportunities to build the knowledge, competence and confidence of park and recreation professionals to develop youth mentoring programs.

NRPA Youth Mentoring Framework

NRPA developed the Youth Mentoring (YM) Framework to help local park and recreation agencies craft their own unique, individualized mentoring programs. It is designed to help your agency leverage local park and recreation assets that build protective factors around at-risk youth, while also forming strong social connections and positive relationships to address trauma, adversity and other challenges that youth experience.

Learn About the Youth Mentoring Framework

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