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Indiana mayors turn to mentoring to build communities 

By Mary Kuhlman

Mentoring is not just beneficial for children. Some Indiana mayors are finding that it has a positive impact on the quality of life in their communities.

In the cities of Gary, Lebanon and Indianapolis, mayors are using mentoring programs to help at-risk youth, increase public safety, and promote economic development.

According to Bill Stancykiewicz, president of The Indiana Youth Institute, mentoring helps children become successful adults who can contribute toward building better communities.

"When cities can say that we have a mentoring program for our young people," said Stancykiewicz, "what it says to employers and potential employers is that we care about our kids, we're a great community in that way, in that we surround our kids. But this is also long-term workforce development."

Stancykiewicz added that mentoring also has a life-long impact on children, by building self-esteem, improving school success, and providing career guidance.

Karen Freeman-Wilson is the mayor of Gary. She said that mentoring takes little time or money, but can provide at-risk children with opportunities they wouldn't have otherwise experienced.

"You don't have to do anything extraordinary," Freeman-Wilson said, "other than take the time to listen to the heart. And listen to ideas and concerns and just have a conversation. That has such a great impact."

Stancykiewicz said teaching a child the right choices can also help to improve public safety. He pointed out that the majority of crimes are committed by repeat offenders.

"If you successfully mentor some of those kids before they get into criminal behavior," Stancykiewicz said, "you can have a huge dent on the crime rate, because you've lowered the potential pool of repeat offenders."

Acording to Stancykiewiczm, that could lead communities to rely less on law enforcement and the judicial system.

More information on mentoring is available online at the Indiana Mentoring Partnership.

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