Tri-Cities Youth Mentoring Group Grows

Tri-Cities Youth Mentoring Group Grows »Play Video
TRI-CITIES -- Area schools tell us programs that keep kids on track outside of school are critical to the community. While budget cuts may be stretching resources statewide, one Tri-Cities mentoring program has stepped up to provide more help for kids.

Bailey McDowell, 13, says he was on the wrong path before he got connected with ignite youth mentoring.

"I was breaking into houses. Getting into trouble with the law," says Bailey.

Things have changed with the help of his mentor, Art King. "I'm just another positive influence, hopefully, that Bailey has an outlet to look up to," says King.

It has made a positive impact. "I've been getting better grades, I've not really gotten into trouble," says Bailey.

King has been a volunteer with the juvenile justice program for years, until he decided to expand his outreach.

"The frustration I had was everything I was doing was on a short-term basis, and I saw the need long-term." He says mentoring for "Ignite" has allowed him to provide that long-term guidance to youth.

This January, "Ignite Youth Mentoring" became a full-fledged non-profit. Since then, it's grown fast.

The head of the program, Todd Kleppin, says in the past two months, Ignite has matched more kids with mentors than in the past two years.

"We are seeing more and more kids who are on their own most of their days. If you're a thirteen year old kid and you're trying to figure out life, it's much harder if you're doing it on your own or just with your peers than with those that have already gone through it," says Kleppin.

He also says the need for mentoring continues to grow as schools and churches send more kids his way. And it's not just teenagers. Mark Byrnes mentors a young boy named Angel.

After years of volunteering with the state penitentiary, Byrnes decided he might having bigger impact with younger kids.

"I just thought that maybe I could spend my energy at a younger age and that maybe we can get things straightened out before they get out of whack," says Byrnes.

And since many kids could use some extra guidance, Ignite is always looking for more mentors.

"We want people to understand that they can be a mentor. A lot of people feel there's reasons they can't. I'll tell you there's a lot more reasons you can. Kids are interested in being with you if you're interested in being with them," says Kleppin.

If you'd link to help, call 948-3143 or visit the link under Newslinks.