VCS LEAD Mentors: Building Bridges Across Our Community and Beyond

By: Valparaiso Community Schools Last Updated: May 16, 2016

valpo-community-schoolsFrom the preschool to the boardroom, hundreds of teen mentors are LEADing the way in Valpo Schools! Mentoring, in multiple forms, provides the foundation for our entire VCS LEAD System. Our district-wide pro-social student empowerment framework consists of student discussion forums, leadership workshops, peer mentoring, and service. VCS LEAD philosophy is founded on the three biggest protective factors for kids: authoritative schools and families, connectedness, and higher purpose (altruism and service). These larger themes also include protective factors of resilience, empathy, accountability, and social intelligence.

Team LEAD coordinates pro-social relationship and leadership trainings for the upper-classmen at each level, in each building, K-12. These trained students then become LEAD ambassadors in the community and mentors for younger students either within their building or across the district. Hundreds of VCS student mentors work with over a thousand younger students each year and also volunteer within the community. This year, the mentors have expanded their service more deeply into the community than ever before, thanks to exciting new partnerships with local businesses, nonprofits, and agencies across Northwest Indiana. Adult facilitators, volunteers, coordinators and community partners also act as mentors to the mentors, thus embedding a culture of service and mentorship throughout the system from top to bottom.

Exciting new partnerships include a preschool mentoring program with 8th grade Team Peace mentors and preschoolers at Immanuel Preschool and Head Start, Valpo Parks Department focus groups and a LEAD day at the upcoming summer camp at Rogers Lakewood Park, and a partnership with the Caring Place’s Amanda Forum Youth Dating Violence Prevention youth task force. A new grant from the Porter County Community Foundation is sponsoring training from nationally acclaimed suicide and substance abuse prevention program, Sources of Strength, who will train both mentors and staff this summer.

Even more community partnerships have been formed this year! LEAD has built bridges with or participated in service for the following groups this year: Empower Porter County’s Around the Table, Love and Logic program, Aberdeen Manor, Brainology, United Way, Calvary Church, Dr. Somer’s prescription drug abuse prevention car wash, the Boys and Girls Club, Popcorn Festival, and more! VCS LEAD mentors have even taken service beyond the community, traveling to South Central High School to spread dating violence prevention resources and knowledge for the Amanda Forum. Valparaiso is truly a community working together to create a culture of student empowerment and altruistic service.