Noah, college student, with staff member, Ken Asberry.

Discipleship has always been at the core of youth programming at Sunshine Gospel Ministries.  The benefits of discipleship and mentoring are immense. Among them include increased school attendance, academic success, positive self-worth and self-esteem, better communication skills, a decrease in violence and risky behaviors, and the setting of academic/career goals.  For students who are regularly mentored it can lead to 46% less likelihood of drug use, 27% less likelihood to use alcohol, 52% less likelihood to skip school, and 33% less likelihood to engage in violent behaviors. Most of Sunshine’s youth programs have a ratio of at least 12 students to every 1 staff person which limits the ability for staff to engage in meaningful mentorship with all youth.  Realizing the need was far greater than the current staff availability and resources could meet, the idea for Mentoring Life came to fruition.

Launching at the beginning of May, Mentoring Life will focus primarily on high school and post-high school age groups.  Volunteer mentors will be paired with 1-2 students and commit to a minimum of 1 year of mentorship. “The focus will be on spiritual, social, academic, career, and all around holistic support.  While there won’t be a set curriculum to use, there will be structured support for the mentors,” shares Pete Blodgett, director of Mentoring Life. Blodgett began his career at Sunshine 15 years ago working primarily with youth during his time and has mentored many youths throughout the years, even taking some into his and wife Nikki’s home. Blodgett echoes that his heart is for discipleship but the harvest is plenty and workers are few.

Arnold Sojourner, Managing Director of Programs and Community Outreach also shares his heart for Mentoring Life.  Having worked with high school and college-age students through Work Life and College Life programs for the past several years, he has seen time and again how crucial this stage of life is for them and how vital mentorship and accountability is needed.  There are many life challenges and decisions for students to make and having an adult to lean on can be absolutely essential to their success. The approach to the MentoringLife program is community-based, seeking mentors from within the community and educating those outside the community about the unique aspects of Woodlawn.  It is also designed to be empowering, focusing on helping youth identify and achieve their goals, multi-faceted, long-term, and Gospel-centered.

Both Blodgett and Sojourner have been working to build a program that will further enhance the values that all of Sunshine’s youth programs have been built upon, both spiritually and emotionally. Mentoring Life will train volunteers in both Trauma Informed Care, which explains the effects of trauma and the 40 Developmental Assets which foster resilience.  Blodgett says, “I’m very excited to bring more structure and intention to our discipleship and engaging in their lives in a much deeper and more meaningful way.”

If you are interested in learning more about Mentoring Life, please contact Pete Blodgett at pete@sunshinegospel.org.