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A Note from our Youth Futures Coordinator

by Sarah Schulz, Youth Futures Coordinator 

When I think back on some of the most influential relationships I have had in my life, a few key people come to mind; my parents, some older teammates throughout my athletic career, and an older girl who mentored me in my faith. Part of the reason all of these people were so influential was because of the way they shared their knowledge, life experiences, and showed immense care for me and my life. They all provided guidance, listened well, and gave me support and this is the heartbeat of 4-H Youth Futures. 

Youth Futures has a partnership between Kansas State University and federal, state, and county governments, with officesYouth Futures Yawn Project in every Kansas county. As a 12-month national 4-H mentoring program that was created for underrepresented youth, Youth Futures is a relationship-focused program connecting local youth with individual, college-aged mentors. The K-State Research and Extension Office and Lawrence Free State High School’s AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program have a partnership that executes the district’s mission to support all students in achieving at high levels and graduating high school college and career ready! 

As the new Spring semester is well on its way, there are about 11 mentors who have been going into Lawrence Free State High School each week to build relationships with the students enrolled in AVID. All mentors are trained on how to become a “guide on the side” where they give specialized advice based on past experiences, lend a listening ear that offers guidance, but they also give room for the mentee to make conclusions on their own. Mentors also learn how to become the mentees' biggest advocate! Mentors are aware that the program focuses on building relationships and strengthening college and workforce preparedness in youth. With that in mind, they provide first-hand experience from college, knowing the possibility that the mentee doesn’t get this in other contexts. Mentors have monthly meetings where they are given resources on how to become a better mentor and activities to do with the high school students in class. 

Being both a coordinator as well as a mentor for the program, I have been given a unique opportunity to see the program from different perspectives! After talking with some of the students about their favorite things in their mentor relationships, here is what a few of them said:

“This is my first experience with them, and I think it was a great first one! The mentors were very kind and did a great job at the presentations.”

“[It’s fun] getting new faces in class with us.”

“They’re fun and nice and usually have really great advice.”

“They give good presentations that are helpful to prepare for college life.”

For more information about 4-H Youth Futures program, or if you want to become a volunteer in Douglas County, please visit: https://www.kansas4-h.org/ or email saschulz@ksu.edu