Life Connected

Los Angeles Team Mentoring Program Aims to Inspire Youth

Thirteen-year-old Jorge Castillo is one of 1,300 students taking part in a unique program called Los Angeles Team Mentoring. It's a program meant to provoke thought, learn from others and build relationships through school-based mentoring.

"You get different perspectives from others and you get their points of view and you get to learn from their examples and what they've been through," said 8th grade student Jorge Castillo.

Targeting middle school age students, the program has the mission to support adolescents during what they consider as a critical part of their lives.

"We're helping them do something safe and structured as opposed to being in the streets or being at home with all the negative influence around them," said the Director of Programs William Figueroa.

The sessions take place on eleven campuses, in disadvantaged neighborhoods, from 3 to 5 p.m.

"Parents are working so kids are being left alone, they're unsupervised, they're really vulnerable at this time. These are critical hours as well," Figueroa said.

The 1992 LA Riots served as the catalyst for LA Team Mentoring. The group's creators wanted to provide positive role models to inner city middle school students.

"I think they're the toughest years. There are so many changes and we have a lot of parents that are single family parents and the kids need a connection," said Jaimie Sennett, a counselor and mentor at LA Team Mentoring.

It's a connection Jaimie Sennett provides not only as a counselor at Pacoima Middle School, but also as an after school mentor with LA team mentoring.

"I'm so tired at the end of the day but for me, it's the best part of my day," Sennett said.

The mentoring sessions at each campus are divided into small groups of a dozen students and 3 mentors: a teacher, a college student and a community member.

"Those 3 individuals provide a full support system for the youth's development and positive role models," said the program's Executive Director Maria Melton.

Despite being a corporate executive before joining LA Team Mentoring, Melton says she feels a connection to the students.

"I was one of those kids, many years ago I was in a similar situation and I remember what that felt like," Melton said.

She and the mentors say they're committed to ensuring today's students get all the support they need.

"It may not be 1992 and the face of the communities might not look the same, but the kids and the families need us more than ever," Melton said.

It is dedication that doesn't go unnoticed by 13-year-old Jorge.

"It makes me feel a sense of gratitude to them, it makes me feel thankful," he said.

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