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Mentoring in Action

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When Y.O.U., Inc. Therapeutic Mentor Mike Tolman and his mentee, Worcester Technical High School Freshman Dan Desrosiers decided to go fishing on one of their first sessions together, they learned they had at least one thing in common: they are equally afraid to touch a fish. And while arguing over who’s going to take the catch off the hook has become a routine part of their fishing trips, the two have     formed a comfortable and productive bond that’s made a world of difference for Dan.

The Therapeutic Mentoring Program is an innovative, community-based service for

children who need guidance or training in daily living, social, or communication skills. In many cases, these youth are best helped not in a clinical setting, but rather in the settings that can be most difficult for them, such as their schools or family and foster homes. The program brings these services to children literally “where they’re at” -- in the school cafeteria, at their afterschool activities, around the dinner table -- anywhere that thoughtful but firm coaching can help them to overcome their limitations and improve their overall social functioning. Mentors work side-by-side with children in these environments, addressing topics such as conflict resolution, self-management skills, problem solving tactics, and age-appropriate behaviors.

Dan, who also participates in Y.O.U. Inc.’s Dynamy Youth Academy college access program, had already been through some challenging life experiences and had recently moved and transferred to a new junior high school when he was referred to the Therapeutic Mentoring program. Dan’s mother felt that in the midst of all this change, her son – a thoughtful and quiet young man – would benefit from the support and services of a mentor. Mike’s guidance around school and social issues, along with the supportive counseling he could provide as part of their weekly meetings, has proven very effective. Dan has adjusted well to his new surroundings, developed strong academic and social skills which are enabling him to succeed in school, and maintains a positive and healthy relationship with his family.

Mike, a graduate of Nichols College with a degree in History and Criminal Justice, worked in Residential care at Y.O.U. Inc. before joining the Therapeutic Mentoring program in 2011. Mike thoroughly enjoys the unique structure of the program, and finds that delivering these services in settings that are comfortable for kids and their families is a key to the program’s success. For example, when Mike took one of his young mentees to sign up for Little League baseball and learned that there was no coach for a team in this boy’s neighborhood, the former high school ball player signed on to coach the team. Of course Mike’s willingness to go above and beyond meant that this youth, along with his older brother, was able to play baseball. But more importantly, Mike was able to meet with the boy and members of his family before and after games -- where he could readily assess his progress in a social setting, as well as overall family functioning.

Mike and Dan are an outstanding example of the power of mentoring to address social and behavioral issues at an early stage, and help set a young person’s life on a positive and productive path for the future.