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Ascending: Highlights of our mission in action

April 20, 2017

Welcome to the inaugural edition of our Newsletter – Ascending: Highlights of Our Mission in Action.  The mission of Ascend Mentoring is to provide a holistic model of mentoring and support services that result in youth and families strengthening competencies and reaching their full potential.  Every month you will read stories on how our mission is impacting the youth and families we serve.  For a more personal perspective, you can click on the Mentee link above to get a first-hand account from our youth through their blog posts.  If you are a mentor or interested in mentoring please visit our Mentors link where you will be provided a monthly calendar of events and activities that you can use to plan your time with your mentee.  We hope you enjoy our September stories and continue to visit us monthly for new updates, news, stories, and events.

As our name indicates, the major strategy we employ to develop our young people is mentoring.  When our program operations began in mid-2013 we were fortunate to have several volunteers ready, willing, and able to become mentors.  Since then, these amazing individuals have been matched with Windsor youth and have met weekly.  Now that these mentoring matches have spent hours bonding you will get to read their personal stories in the form of blog posts from our young people or Mentor Match Profiles in future issues of our newsletter.  Ascend also realizes that in order to truly implement a holistic youth development strategy we must provide more than just mentoring to our young people.  Throughout the last four months, working with input from our youth, Ascend staff has created programing that helps foster leadership, health, and employability skills. To that end, we have formed strategic and longstanding partnerships with Riverfront Recapture, Get Fit LLC, and Aetna.  We are grateful that these organizations stepped up to be the first in what we hope to be a long line of partnerships for the betterment of the community we serve.

We believe leadership is a quality that is essential to a young person’s life. Research shows that leadership is a skill that helps youth avoid negative peer pressure, creates high self-esteem, and allows them to make positive choices about the people in their life. Our partnership with Riverfront Recapture is based on their extensive track record of providing activities that nurture leadership qualities in their participants.  In May, our youth participated in the first Riverfront Recapture leadership session that was located at their low-ropes course next to the Connecticut River in Hartford. Thirteen of our youth were transported to this scenic location and met by Riverfront staff. The staff at Riverfront led ice breaker games, conducted intense team building and leadership activities, and concluded by having each participant detail their challenges and successes of the day.

We were most proud of the fact that one of youth, Ke’Shawn, who is rarely vocal or involved in anything extra-curricular proved to be the leader of the day.  His steady character and positive view of each activity allowed the group to accomplish their goals.  During the most challenging times it was his patience and genuine respect of everyone’s ideas that helped the group prevail through the arguments and confusion.  It was truly a great moment for our youth.  Our young people are looking forward to their next session at the Riverfront.

Nothing we teach or present to our young people matters if they are not healthy.  Our partnership with Get Fit LLC in Manchester is focused on teaching our young people about health and nutrition.  Jerry Ruck, the owner and creator of Get Fit LLC, shares Ascend’s approach of developing people holistically. Mr. Ruck shared his life story, demonstrated simple yet effective workouts that can be done at home, and gave tips on how to eat healthy regardless of the family budget.  Mr. Ruck’s inviting and engaging demeanor connected with the youth and everyone left with an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle.  Our youth were so impressed with Mr. Ruck and his knowledge of general health topics that they petitioned Ascend staff to make our partnership with Get Fit LLC a monthly program.  We are currently in the process of looking for funding to make this a year round program.

During the process where youth contributed ideas to the creation of diverse enrichment activities, their major concern was the enhancement of employability skills.  They wanted to learn the skills of getting a job and keeping it.  Ascend is proud to call the Aetna in Hartford our partner in this endeavor.  Ascend and Aetna staff collaborated on an agenda that allowed our youth to visit Aetna’s corporate offices in Hartford, meet and interact with executives, tour the facility and debrief on the things they learned over a working lunch.  To finalize their visit, the youth were invited into a beautiful theater where they learned about Aetna internships and how to create resumes.  The Aetna representatives were impressed with our youth.  We are determined to continue our partnership and find creative ways to provide more sessions throughout the year at Aetna focused on employment skills.

This is just the beginning!  Ascend is looking forward to reporting the various ways we put our mission into action.  We hope you continue to follow us and if you are interested in becoming a mentor or partnering with us in any other manner please contact us through the link above.