Changing Lives Through The Power Of Mentoring

Do you remember the one person who believed in you when you may not have believed in yourself? Who stood by your side when others seemed to walk away? Do you think you might be able to be this positive force in a child’s life? Maybe you didn’t have a mentor growing up. Maybe you always wanted one.

Across our community, there are dozens of middle school students waiting for that one person who can step up and provide unconditional support. The Center for Community Alternatives (CCA) is looking to match youth in Syracuse with caring adult role models and hopes you might be one of those role models.

Meet eighth grader Briana.

Briana is a student in the Syracuse City School District and she’s worked with her mentor for more than a year. Briana says her mentor has helped her do her best in – and out – of school. The two get together often. Sometimes they’ll take a trip to the mall. Other times, they just sit and chat. Briana says her mentor has been a stable source of support in her life.

“She’s fun,” Briana said when talking about her mentor. “She’s there when I need to talk to her.”

CCA’s mentoring program collaborates with the Syracuse City School District. CCA’s purpose is to promote reintegrative justice and help youth and adults live productive and safe lives. The organization serves those who struggle with issues in the juvenile and criminal justice system as well as substance abuse and HIV/AIDS.

CCA cannot go it alone though. While the organization’s Youth Services Unit works to recruit mentors and match them with kids like Briana, there is still a great need for people to step up and get involved in the process. If you think you might be able to give one hour a week over the course of a year to a young person, we ask you to consider mentoring with us.

The support that kids like Briana enjoy is made possible only when CCA can collaborate with individuals from the community willing to sacrifice a bit of their time to better the life of another, younger Central New Yorker. Across Syracuse, there are many middle school students like Briana waiting for mentors. Mentors like Darlene Keys.

Darlene heard about the mentoring program from a close friend two years ago. She signed up and she and Brianna have, since that time, forged a bond.

“I used to usually let people get to me and now instead of that I try as hard as I can to just let it go,” Briana said.

Darlene says there have been successes and challenges with the match, but says she loves working with Briana.

“She’s important,” mentor Darlene said. “I want her to know she has so much potential.”

— Column submitted by Jason Torreano

To learn more about being a mentor with the Center for Community Alternatives, contact mentor recruiter Jason Torreano at 422-5638 ext. 259 or e-mail

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