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Teen Programming Soars

Teen mentoring in Moab won a big boost of support. In July 2023, the Utah Department of Workforce Services awarded a TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) grant to fund a three-year position at Grand Area Mentoring. Teresa Munisteri joined the team as outreach specialist in September. The outreach specialist assists with community-based mentoring, meetups that take place off campus for 6th to 12th grade youth. These long-term relationships centered on one-on-one meetings at approved sites around town lead to better outcomes for mentored students. The program’s teen mentee count has continued to grow as adolescents opt to stay in the program.

The outreach specialist plans activities and forms community partnerships that broaden the possibilities of what mentors and mentees can do in their time together – offering restaurant outings or discounts/ gift cards, group activities, free event suggestions, and more. Venturing beyond the confines of school is developmentally appropriate as mentees mature. With the guidance of Moab’s responsible mentor corps, promising youth can become more active participants in their community and expand their horizons. And with the support of the Outreach Specialist, mentors spend less time and money planning new ways to engage their mentees and more time strengthening their relationships.

This school year has been filled with fun group activities, which build a stronger sense of community for teen participants. The groundwork for such events requires working with local businesses and agencies to provide activities, transportation, or gift certificates. The program also works with Moab’s Department of Workforce Services (DWS) to achieve grant goals.

In November, mentors and mentees practiced their swings at the Moab Golf Course. In December, they went off-roading with Big Iron Tours and baked holiday cookies with Cat Vasquez. February found matches roasting s’mores around a campfire and visiting the Moab Museum. In March, matches were invited to hop on a tour (zip lining, via ferrata, hiking, etc.) with NAVTEC Expeditions or Raven’s Rim Adventure tours; and mentors learned more about DWS programs for teens through an info session with specialist Jerry Pruitt.

Over the next two years, new and ongoing partnerships will continue to enhance mentoring opportunities for adolescent youth. Already in the works: Canyonlands Field Institute’s mentoring-specific hike as part of their Mental Health Hike series, a dark skies program with Friends of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and rafting with OARS.

Based on a poll of community-based mentees at the beginning of the school year, mentees’ relationship with mentors is strong (4.5 out of 5) while their comfort level interacting with new people is much lower (3 out of 5). The addition of an outreach specialist aims to raise both ratios and the overall ease in which mentees interact with their community.  Mentors and mentees have offered positive feedback about these new program enhancements. We are excited to build upon these successes over the coming two years!

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