Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $900,000)
Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD), in collaboration with the Bender Leadership Academy and the Family Resource Network, proposes an expansion of its successful Mentor Match program through the Disability Mentoring Initiative. This program will serve at least 205 youth with disabilities ages 17 and younger residing in the two geographical areas served by Collaborative members, which include Western and Central Pennsylvania/Delaware and New Jersey. One hundred percent of participating youth will have a disability, which may include visible physical disabilities, or invisible emotional or learning disabilities.
Youth with disabilities are at high risk of involvement in the criminal justice system. Research shows that 65 to 70 percent of juvenile justice-involved youth have a disability, which is three times higher than the rate for youth without disabilities. Those with disabilities, particularly youth, fare less positively than their counterparts without disabilities in key measures including income, employment, education, and peer relationships.
A critical need exists for youth with disabilities to have access to mentors and positive role models through quality mentoring programs. Mentoring is regarded as one of the most successful means of improving the lives of at-risk and high-risk youth, yet the disability community is often overlooked as a population that would benefit from mentoring.
The proposed Disability Mentoring Initiative will provide vital resources for at-risk and high-risk youth with disabilities by increasing mentoring opportunities for our most vulnerable youth. PYD’s evidence-based Mentor Match program model, which will be fully adopted by all collaborators, provides one-on-one mentoring services that substantially improve outcomes for participating youth.
Through a careful screening, training, and matching process, the Disability Mentoring Initiative will meets the needs of at least 205 youth with disabilities. One-on-one mentoring services, both in-person and through an online platform, will be provided to participating youth served across collaborators during the three-year project period. Matches will be in contact at least once per week and meet at least 4-6 hours per month for a minimum of one year. At least 205 adult mentors will be recruited, trained, and matched with mentees over the grant period. Outcomes will include: 80% of mentees will have a more positive view of themselves, 75% of mentees will have a more positive attitude towards school because of their mentor, 80% of mentees will improve their social skills and show an increase in healthy relationships, and 80% will improve their community involvement.