Three Indiana mayors are incorporating the same strategy into their overall efforts to promote youth, community and economic development.
The cities of Gary, Lebanon and Indianapolis are connected by I-65 but also by the common challenge of poverty.
The mayors are countering that obstacle by recruiting volunteers to mentor at-risk children.
“Mentoring is a key piece in the rebuilding of our community in Gary,” explained Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.
Gary launched the Mentoring Trust in partnership with NIPSCO, the regional utility company where Gary native Eddie Melton serves as manager of corporate citizenship and employee involvement. NIPSCO provides employees with paid time off to mentor, and Melton said, “Mentoring is going to be a key component for the turnaround, the renewal, the revival of the city.”
In Indianapolis, Mayor Greg Ballard is dealing with one of the city’s highest homicide rates in a decade. While exploring the possibility of hiring more police officers and launching a youth summer employment program, Ballard also is working with community organizations to provide mentors for at-risk youth.
“People often approach me to ask how they can help the city, and I always suggest that they mentor a child,” Ballard said. “One of the greatest things an adult can do to improve education, reduce crime and contribute to building a better city is help a young person in need and show them you care.”
Lebanon Mayor Huck Lewis also is promoting mentoring to increase academic achievement and reduce poverty. The mayor’s office is collaborating with the local utility company, Witham Hospital, the local United Way and community foundation, faith-based organizations, several businesses and the Boys and Girls Club to provide mentors to low-income youth.
Lewis said mentoring strengthens his city’s economic development. “We’re developing the next leadership in the community, and we need a trainable workforce that will match up with any community in Indiana,” Lewis stated.