Dec 16, 2012 - Christina George, Staff WriterOlder students will act as mentors to other children.
Eastern Shoshone Department of Juvenile Services has secured nearly half a million dollars in grant funding that will be used to create a mentoring program for the area's youngest residents.
"It's youth teaching youth," director Clarence Thomas said.
Organizers are now taking applications from those ages 11 to 18 years old interested in being a mentor for the Eastern Shoshone Cross-Age Peer Education Project, or ESCAPE.
"It's the only program of its kind," Thomas said. "The federal government is looking at it."
He explained the youth will go through an eight-month training beginning February on how to mentor younger children about topics ranging from drug use to bullying to violence. Mentors who are 17 and 18 years old will also be trained in suicide prevention.
Thomas said ESCAPE mentors will then be assigned to schools on the reservation to be peer mentors and give presentations.
"I want a kindergartener to say, 'I want to be just like him,'" Thomas said about the mentors.
He said the idea started when he learned of a kindergartener using an inhalant. He said the child said he learned it from their fifth-grade brother. The brother said he learned it from his cousin, who was a high school senior.
"It is something the kids are looking at to want to do," Thomas said. "Kids want to make changes and this gives them a chance to gain credentials."
The project is using $486,670 in funding from the Tribal Youth Program through the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The grant will be used over a three-year period.
"The purpose of the project is the coordination of a mentoring program, positive youth development and to support and enhance the Eastern Shoshone Tribe's effort in prevention and control of juvenile delinquency," Thomas said.
Mentor applications have been dispersed to schools and presentations about the project are under way. Thomas said those interested must be an enrolled tribal member or a descendent of a tribe. He said the long-term goal will be to open up the program to all county youth.
"If we can do it at the reservation schools, and do it well, we can do it anywhere," Thomas said.
He said his goal is to have 30 mentors this first go around. Those selected will be announced next month.
Applications will be accepted for two more weeks. They can be picked up at juvenile services, 42 Black Coal Road, Fort Washakie. For more information, call Thomas or Chelsea Lane at 332-0207.
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