Community Board.  
 


US Department of Labor announces $12 million in funds for prisoner re-entry programs 24 current grantees to receive additional support to continue services


WASHINGTON— The U.S. Department of Labor today (March 24) announced the award of $12 million in additional funding to 24 programs that are currently operating prisoner re-entry programs through the Reintegration of Ex-Offenders initiative. "Rehabilitated ex-offenders are returning to communities across the country in record numbers. And today's funding continues our commitment to supporting programs that will help them re-enter society and transition to stable careers," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. Launched in 2004, the Reintegration of Ex-Offenders initiative provides grants to faith-based and community organizations to help strengthen urban communities and assist ex-offenders re-entering the community. This funding is accomplished through employment-centered programming that incorporates job training, mentoring and other supportive services. Department of Labor grant funds are used to provide a variety of services to ex-offenders including workforce development services, job training, on-the-job training, work experience, basic skills remediation, counseling, case management and mentoring. In 2008, the Labor Department held a limited competition among 30 existing first-generation grants and subsequently funded 24 of the 30 grants for a fourth year of program funding and operation. The department currently is providing $500,000 in fifth-year funding to each grantee. These programs operate in conjunction with grants from the U.S. Department of Justice, which provides funding to state criminal justice agencies that offer pre-release and referral services to soon-to-be released offenders.

 

 

Season of mentoring
CityFest SOS volunteer emphasis for June targets adult-minor friendships

by Lori Arnold

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — The Rev. Rolland Slade sandwiched his errands and mentoring time by taking Jasper, his young protégé, to the bank. While there Jasper was introduced to the bank manager and given a quick glimpse into the world of banking—a foreign experience to the at-risk youth who, at age 13, had never been to a bank.

For Slade, who pastors Meridian Baptist Church in El Cajon, the biggest deposit of the day was not cash, but in enriching the life of a rudderless teen who had suddenly found a purpose
.

“I thought I had to do something with him that was a well-organized trip. But really, it was just exposing him to stuff I do every day,” Slade said of the relationshi
p.

Thanks to bank employees who called Jasper by his first name and gifted him with a calculator, calendar, mouse pad and other trinkets, the teen’s inner banker was unleashed and within months his math grades soared as, for the first time, he looked toward his futu
re.

“From that act, it opened a whole new door for him,” said Charles W. Patmon, JR. Coordinator of Mentoring for the Metro United Methodist Urban Ministry, or METRO. “Things like this really make a difference. Simple things we take for granted are major things for these ki
ds.”

Such simple actions, Patmon said, are changing the lives of millions of boys and girls across the country as more and more adults embrace the concept of investing in the lives children and teens who—for myriad reasons—lack full-time role models by building relationships with the minors. Locally, nearly two dozen organizations are listed on The Mentoring Coalition of San Diego County website, some of them faith-based. Nationwide, the Corporation for National and Community Service in a 2005 report estimates that three million American adults are involved in formal one-on-one mentoring, up 19 percent from three years ear
lier.

“The nuclear family has changed over the past few decades,” he said. “There are more and more single parents and a lot of grandparents raising their grandchildren. People need help. They (the children) need the extra attention they are not receiving at home.”


Unfulfilled
needs
But even as the interest in mentoring increases METRO still has 110 kids waiting to be matched with an adult. Ministry officials are hoping to eliminate that gap in June as CityFest Season of Service places its emphasis for the month on mentoring. The Season of Service is a five-month countywide volunteer effort held in advance of the Sept. 11 and 12 CityFest celebration at Mission Bay Park. The emphasis for July is the military, while schools will be the focus in A
ugust.

Patmon said his team has set a goal of identifying 2,010 more mentoring volunteers before the end of the year, many through the Season of Service
effort.

“We want to have churches involved,” Patmon said. “We are finding that a lot of the other ministries are adopting mentorships because it
works.”

According to a 1995 impact study conducted by the Big Brothers and Big Sisters, youth who are mentored are 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs, 27 percent are less likely to begin using alcohol, 53 percent less likely to skip school and 33 percent are less likely to get i
n fights.

In a 1998 survey by The Commonwealth Fund, mentors said they had a significant, positive influence in helping youth deal with such issues as feelings about himself/herself (62 percent), poor grades (48 percent), hanging out with the wrong crowd (42 percent), getting into trouble outside of school (47 percent), skipping school (52 percent), smoking, drinking or drug use (45 percent) and sexual activity (25
percent).

“Growing up I had a mentor whom I didn’t even know was a mentor,” he said. “There were teachers and people in the neighborhood who looked o
ut for us.”

In an effort to augment the traditional influences in a child’s life, METRO’s faith-based mentoring offerings include such specialized programs as school-based, workforce and life skills development and one for expectant teens and young moms. It’s Amachi program, a Nigerian Ibo word that means, “Who knows but what God has brought us through this child,” targets children whose lives have been touched by jai
l or prison.

“You would be surprised. One in 10 children in the county have some link to incarceration,” Patmon said, adding the number is even higher among minority populations.


The
time element
Although the Corporation for National and Community Service study found that 96 percent of mentors would recommend the practice to others, time seems to be one of the biggest obstacles for would-be volunteers. Patmon is hoping the mentoring emphasis will help the public understand that the typical commitment is one hour a week. METRO also allows mentors flexibility by asking for four hours a month, however it best works out for the mentor. There is a one-year commitment
requirement.

The advent of technology such as cell phones, texting and social networking sites also provide easier options for encouragement and
staying touch.

“It’s more simple than what people think,” Patmon said. “It could be developing a work plan for the student, filling out a check, taking them to a restaurant or a cultural event. We want to give them something they wouldn’t experience in their one
-square block.”

Pastor Slade, Patmon said, is a good example of how the time can be creatively used to benefit both adults and minors. In addition to his pastoral duties at Meridian Baptist, Slade also serves as president of METRO. The married father of three also umpires for Little League baseball, serves as the district administrator for Little League District 66 and is president of the Spring Valley Youth Sports council. He still regularly commi
ts to mentoring.

“For me it was just a matter of making a commitment,” Slade said. “I could have used it (time) as an excuse. I could justify it becaus
e I was so busy.”

In addition to blessing himself and Jasper, Slade said the mentoring served as inspiration for his grown sons, who realized they could make si
milar commitments.

“Everybody is busy,” Slade said. “But I realized it doesn’t take a lot to make a difference in someone’s life. It’s rewarding for them and it’s rewarding for you.”

REPRINTED FROM CHRISTIAN EXAMINER