Ascend Mentoring program ready to take off

By Jennifer Coe - ReminderNews
Windsor - posted Tue., Nov. 26, 2013
Executive Director Ricardo Herrera leads the Ascend Mentoring program, which is on the verge of accepting its first clients. Ascend will be reaching out to at-risk youth to support them as well as their families.  Photos by Jennifer Coe.
Executive Director Ricardo Herrera leads the Ascend Mentoring program, which is on the verge of accepting its first clients. Ascend will be reaching out to at-risk youth to support them as well as their families. Photos by Jennifer Coe.

It was 2009 when Windsor Police Chief Kevin Searles started to feel like Windsor juveniles were lacking the support that they desperately needed. He conversed with others about possibly organizing a program that would meet the needs of a certain clientele of young people that he and other officers were coming in contact with regularly. Over the years, Searles had noticed a pattern developing in which a child he knew would get in trouble, eventually get suspended from school, then later arrested. “It happened so many times,” he said. “It was really painful.”

“I just came into contact with so many of them,” said Searles. He was afraid that these kids - who he saw were in tremendous need of support - would slowly slip further down the path and end up incarcerated, or worse.

Although he and others in town mentor regularly, Searles felt that there needed to be a mentoring program that met the needs of the families. Instead of just meeting with the children regularly, many felt that a more holistic-family approached was necessary. “It was really fortunate because I started to talk with people in town,” said Searles. A core group started making plans.

The Ascend Mentoring program officially opened in 2013. According to program leaders, the program is designed to “tackle challenges faced by our most vulnerable population, at risk youth.”

Charter members held an event at Windsor Town Hall on Nov. 14, during the most gratitude-filled month of the year, to thank the people who have brought the program as far as it has come, on the eve of it accepting its first clients.

Ricardo Herrera, Ascend’s executive director, is thrilled to be at the precipice of offering a program to Windsor kids and families which will fill a gap not presently covered by any other program. “Everything till now has all been talk,” said Herrera. “2014 is the year we want to make some great impressions with kids and families.”

Ascend will be referral-based and will offer kids programs to attend after school, as well as the support and encouragement of an adult mentor. In addition, a caseworker will work with families to assist them in getting connected with services and support that they themselves need.

Herrera says that in order for this program to work with kids and families, they have to be willing to follow through on attending after-school programs and appointments. “That’s why we assess families ahead of time,” said Herrera. “It’s whole family interaction on a regular basis.”

Ascend hopes to provide computer classes, employment training, leadership development and civic engagement. They would like to offer financial counseling to families and kids too, and for the adults, free employment services, mental health services and financial planning assistance. As it is a new program, other offerings are yet to be decided, and Herrera wants to seek the input of clients to craft the program.

Major funding for this new program comes from the Urban Alliance.

If you would like to learn more about this program, visit www.ascendmentoring.org.


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