Organization remains on a mission to help local youth

Jill Derrieux
Jill Derrieux

As the season of special events and fund-raisers approaches, I’d like to remind our community Mesa County Partners is always looking for volunteers and donations.

The organization is in its 38th year of providing support and educational services to the youth of Mesa County. Countless young people have come through the program under varying circumstances. Our long-standing mission is to make a difference in the lives of young people by helping them develop a positive
self-image, sense of belonging and acceptance of responsibility for their actions. Through our three main components, we strive to provide a strong program to youth.

Most people are familiar with our one-to-one mentoring program. Last year we matched 48 youth with adult mentors, bringing our total active partnerships to 120.  Through the end of April, we’ve matched an additional 17 youth with positive adult role models.

Many people who ask about the mentoring program say they don’t have enough time. As a senior partner, I can say with certainty you do. We ask for a commitment of three hours a week for a year. Think about the things you do every week. Then think about taking a child along with you.  When I’m with my junior partner, we do things I do every day already. We like to walk my dogs, water my flowers, play a little basketball and have dinner. Add in a little homework, and the three hours just fly by. With more than 80 youth waiting to be matched, I challenge you to consider becoming a mentor. It will change two lives forever.

Partners also offers a restitution and community service work program. We help youth ordered by courts to perform community service hours and/or pay restitution, which is any monetary damages owed to crime victims.  We serve youth who come from the district attorney’s juvenile diversion program; municipal, county and district courts as well as the Division of Youth Corrections. These community service hours include yard work and lawn mowing, trash pickup, ditch digging and trail building and cleanup. In 2014, these youth paid back more than $80,000 to their victims. So far in 2015, young people have already paid back $32,000 to our community.

In addition to physical work, this program provides education in the form of victim empathy and minor in possession/substance abuse prevention classes. We’re proud to say this is the only program like this in Colorado.

The final piece of our mission is the Western Colorado Youth Conservation Corps (WCYCC). This program offers young people between the ages of 16 and 25 a chance to receive education and training in an outdoor environment.  Many of these youth come from situations where poverty and lack of education is common. Through contracts with such government agencies and entities as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, Colorado National Monument and City of Grand Junction, corps members are trained to build and maintain trails, clear such invasive species as tamarisk and provide fire fuel mitigation by clearing fallen trees around structures.

Chainsaw and firefighting certifications are also earned through training provided by WCYCC. We also work with AmeriCorps to enable corps members to earn higher education awards. We anticipate our members will earn more than $50,000 through AmeriCorps to be used at local universities or trade schools.

At Partners, we’re honored by the number of people who support us. Because government funding has dropped from 65 percent of our budget to just over the 10 percent projected for 2015, we can only continue our program with the financial and time commitments from people like you. As you think about a financial investment in Partners, know your money is being used to improve the lives of youth.  An evaluation of our programs by Omni Research in 2014 showed statistically significant positive changes in decision-making skills; empathy toward victims; connection to community; and reduction in violence, delinquency and substance abuse.

The WCYCC was a subject of a research project called The 2014 River Restoration Evaluation by Mat Duerden and Michael Edwards. This report showed significant positive changes in participants in measured outcomes, including community engagement, teamwork, leadership, self-responsibility, critical thinking, grit and communication. 

As you can see, Mesa County Partners is an integral part of our community. We all benefit from a strong dedication to the young people of our area. We wouldn’t be able to serve the youth we do without your time and financial commitment.

Jill Derrieux is executive director of finance and business development for Mesa County Partners. For more information about Partners, call 245-5555 or visit the Web site at www.mesapartners.org