National Mentoring Month: Juvenile Reentry Mentoring Project


January is known for National Mentoring Month which recognizes the power of mentoring, the impact it has on people’s lives, and encourages individuals to explore mentoring opportunities in their area.

Since 2013, the Nebraska Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Centers (YRTC) has partnered with Dr. Anne Hobbs and the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO) Juvenile Justice Institute to develop the Juvenile Reentry Mentoring Project. The students in this program receive training from the university to learn about the juvenile justice system, and mentoring techniques and strategies to use during the mentorship. The student mentor provides advice and assists young people as they prepare for their future by teaching their mentee about potential careers, goals, family, and values.

“A mentor is someone who sees talent and ability within you and pushes you in the right direction to help you discover your full potential”, says Larry Kahl, Chief Operating Officer with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. “You can not always see where you are going, but having someone to encourage you, provide support, and offer guidance to achieve your goals can help you find your way”.

The mentorship begins while the young individual is in the YRTC program and continues once the youth leaves the facility. Mentors are there to help with transitions into home life and continues to work with their mentee in the community. Mentors help youth achieve goals such as finishing high school, applying for college, finding and applying for a job, establishing healthy coping strategies, and developing positive relationships. The goal of this program is to reduce the rate of recidivism among the juvenile reentry population in Nebraska. Over 266 youths have been matched to a university student mentor, with many of the mentors walking alongside the youth until young adulthood.

According to a survey done by Mentor Cloud, 97% of individuals with a mentor feel they are highly impactful and valuable. Mentorship can provide numerous benefits for mentors and their mentees. Having a mentor provides young individuals with an individual that will support their growth, helps set goals, maintain accountability, offers encouragement, provides constructive feedback, and serves as a trusted ally.

Another way to get involved is at school or in the workplace. A handful of schools and employers have mentorship programs in place for their students and employees. Individuals of all ages and backgrounds can benefit from mentorship. Whether it’s developing employees, supporting young people, or inspiring college students, being a mentor provides people an opportunity to unleash their full potential by learning from others. Mentorship does not only include professional development, it also includes life skills, craftsmanship, and hobbies. These programs allow individuals to share their knowledge while creating a positive and encouraging environment.

If you are a university student at the University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL) or UNO, and interested in applying to become a mentor for a YRTC youth, click here for more information.