The YMCA’s Reach & Rise® Program Delivers Trauma-Informed, Therapeutic Mentoring

The YMCA is a nonprofit organization that seeks to connect people of all ages and backgrounds to bridge the gaps in community needs and nurture potential. Established 160 years ago, the YMCA now serves 10,000 neighborhoods across the nation in the areas of youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.

Mentoring Model

YMCAReach & Rise® is a therapeutic mentoring model coupled with family support/case management. The program has evolved over time to be more deliberate in addressing the mental health issues of youth exposed to repeated trauma. The YMCA has been providing therapeutic mentoring services to at-risk youth, families, and communities in San Francisco since 1993 and the program expanded nationally in 2012.

The YMCA trains Reach & Rise® mentors to equip them with the competencies needed to understand the negative impacts trauma and violence have on a young person’s life, while helping mentors to develop empathy and cultural humility. A belief in the importance of providing experiences to broaden a young person's sense of what is possible and to ultimately positively impact decision making is a core tenant of the Reach & Rise® model.

The overarching goal of our Reach & Rise® Mentoring Program is to foster successful futures for generations of youth, by supporting them in developing healthy relationships, becoming productive citizens, and positively contributing to society.

With the support of the mentor, positive outcomes for youth include improvements in personal development, (e.g., reducing levels of depression, increasing levels of self-worth, etc.), academic performance (e.g., higher grades, better classroom preparedness/behavior, etc.), and social relationships (e.g., being seen as responsible by adults/peers, high personal expectations, etc.).

Each Reach & Rise® Program Director supports a caseload of 30 matches for a total of 1,140 matches annually. Caseloads are small in order to provide intentional and intensive support to the match as well as the family. Reach & Rise® Program Directors have an advanced degree in social work, counseling, or other mental health field. Hiring people with clinical expertise is an essential component of delivering a therapeutic mentoring program.

The YMCA delivers this mentoring program in 38 states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

With more than 11 million adult constituents currently active in Ys throughout the nation, Reach & Rise® is uniquely positioned to recruit and maintain a diverse pool of volunteer mentors.

The Reach & Rise® program has seen the impacts of its trauma-informed model on the lives of the mentees it serves. Recently, a former Reach & Rise® mentee (now in his 20’s) was invited by Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi of California to testify in a congressional hearing on poverty. The young man testified that it was with the support of mentor, who accompanied him to DC, that he was able to leave a life of poverty, drugs, and violence and eventually become a journeyman carpenter. With his mentor, he found an alternative path and made positive life choices.

In order to capture the effectiveness of the therapeutic model, the program conducted a four-year program evaluation by a third party evaluator which showed statistically significant changes occurring in mentees’ learning, boundaries, and positive identities.

Evidence-Based Practice

YMCAThe Reach & Rise® model incorporates each of the Elements of Effective Practice for MentoringTM, including screening, training, matching, monitoring and support, and closure, and adapts them by focusing on the efforts necessary to create a strong and impactful match relationship for youth impacted by trauma and mental health needs. The model enhances the elements by overlapping mental health modalities with the evidence-based practice. The program employs an initial comprehensive 15-hour mentor training curriculum, an established protocol for matching mentors and mentees, and weekly face-to-face meetings lasting for the duration of 12 to 24 months. Additionally, the Reach & Rise® model incorporates the creation of personalized growth plans for youth and families which are assessed on a regular basis, ongoing mentor/mentee support (including structured group activities and trainings), case management, and support during and after the termination process.

Next Steps for Reach & Rise®

The YMCA has explored opportunities to receive technical assistance from the NMRC to continue the development of its programs in strategic areas. Specifically, Reach & Rise® is expanding its model to include group mentoring, and is engaged in an exploration of evidence-based practices for serving youth in groups. The YMCA is also working to revise its training curriculum to incorporate best practices for delivering a therapeutic group mentoring approach across the country.

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