For years the athletes at St. Catharine College have taken an interest in the youth of central Kentucky. The Patriot athletic teams have volunteered to read in elementary schools, have helped distribute commodities to needy families and have visited area schools for athletic clinics and camps.
Now the athletes at St. Catharine have a chance to embark on what is now the most meaningful public service to date. That is the Hope Mentor Program about which SC athletic director Mike Doig recently received information. It is a new program for Kentucky teens who are currently in “out of home care”. Those could be teens who are in a foster home, group home or residential facility. These may be high school students but could even be those of college age.
The program is currently hosted by Murray State University under the authority of Cabinet for Health and Family services in Frankfort. Ironically, the Frankfort contact is Paula Saenz, formerly Paula Jenkins who is a graduate of Washington County High school.
“This program is for young people aged 16 or older,” said Saenz who is State Independent Living Coordinator. “So far the University of Kentucky and St. Catharine are the two colleges that have contacted me about the mentor program. So often these young kids do not have the support system they need and the college athletes can provide that.”
In the initial introduction to the program, Saenz outlined the difficulties these teens may have. “Because of their past experiences with abuse and/or neglect, these teens are at a higher risk than their peers in the general population for less than positive outcomes. Those can include higher high school drop-out rates, higher instances of substance abuse, higher chances of incarceration and greater chances of an out of wedlock pregnancy.”
The mentors must be 21 years of age, pass a background check and complete training. As a mentor they would be asked to have contact with their teen at least four times per month. Mike Doig sees the benefits of such a program running both ways.
“As a mentor you or more or less saying, ‘Be like me’”, said Doig. “No longer is the world all about me but it comes to helping other people. It is a step in the maturation process for our athletes and a development of character. It fits perfectly in the mission of our College as well as that of the NAIA.”
The program for the mentors is a six month commitment (September-April). Doig says he hopes to implement it when the student-athletes arrive for the fall semester in August.