Did you know that the hours between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. are the peak times for teens to engage in risky behaviors?
The dedicated people behind the Roaring Fork Valley’s Stepping Stones, a community-based nonprofit youth mentoring organization, are very aware of this window of vulnerability and they’re there to make sure that local kids are positively engaged in supervised activities and learning in the afternoons and evenings.
Since 2014, this organization has provided a safe space for the youth ages 10 to 21. Pre-teens, teens and young adults can cultivate strong mentoring relationships in the free, drop-in community spaces designed to foster personal growth, compassion and responsibility. Youth are able to find a peaceful place to relax, play a game or instrument, do homework, and enjoy a snack or meal and the companionship of adult mentors.
“Our philosophy is that strong, long-term relationships with positive adult role models are the key to empowering youth and their families,” says executive director Kyle Crawley. He adds that Stepping Stones maintains a 10-to-1 youth to mentor ratio, so each participant gets to work with a staff member toward their individualized goals, within a unified and family-like environment.
To meet the varied needs of its participants, Stepping Stones offers essential services and programming free of charge, including skill development, nightly meals, basic needs assistance, educational support, family engagement and experiential programming.
“Our centers function as a community hub to connect youth and families with the supports they need to thrive,” says Kyle. “In each component of our work, Stepping Stones seeks to empower youth to reach self-sufficiency, through risk-prevention and crisis intervention services.”
The programs are linked with timely themes and substantive issues that youth are up against, including race and equity, gender and sexuality, mental health, homelessness and food insecurity.
“We track the mentoring conversations and what a youth chose to focus on,” he says. “Many of the youth in our mentoring program have been in our program for more than three years, and spend 75 days at our drop-in centers with their mentors.”
The progress is cumulative, and incremental over time, in Stepping Stones’ programs. Mentored youth have a lower likelihood of starting to use illegal drugs and are less prone to depression. They have a higher likelihood of participating in physical activity and sports, graduating high school and continuing on to higher learning.
“Alpine Bank has supported Stepping Stones from the very beginning,” says Kyle. “That support has allowed us to grow and leverage other funding opportunities over the last eight years.”
Learn more at, www.steppingstonesrfv.org