Merced County Times Newspaper
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City awarded $885,546 for Youth Pilot Mentorship Program

The City of Merced is pleased to announce the award of a $885,546, three-year Youth Pilot Mentorship Program Grant from the Board of State and Community Corrections (BSCC).

The purpose of the grant and program is to focus on the individual and systemic impacts of cannabis legalization on at-risk youth.

“The pilot program will help the youth in our community to have a chance to better their lives and make a positive impact in their community,” said Mayor Matt Serratto.

The city partnered with Merced County to design a three-month pilot program that offers early intervention, supportive services, and mentorship as an alternative to cannabis use. There will be up to ten youth (ages 12-18) in the program at a time, allowing the program to serve a maximum of 40 youth each year. The program intends to divert participants from the criminal justice system, provide personalized individual and family support, drug education, drug treatment, and enhancing youth strengths and skills through job training, and a paid internship. At the conclusion of the three-month program, additional participation activities will be offered for the length of the three-year pilot program for all participants.

The grant funds will allow participants enrolled in the program to receive pre-program screening, the development of an individual success plan, post program support, assigned mentor, 10 hours of paid job experience, individual, group, and family counseling.

Participating youth will be screened by the City of Merced Recreation and Parks Coordinator to develop a personalized mentorship and internship/job training program lasting three months. Each participant with the assigned mentor, will engage in social and recreational activities together. After three months of engagement with each participant, and upon successful completion of the program, participants will have the opportunity to continue in the program voluntarily for an additional ten hours of paid job experience. Participants will earn $200 stipend for the voluntary continued participation, as well as continued engagement with the mentor and social and recreational activities.

‘It is important for the youth of Merced to feel like their community is investing in them,” said Jesse Ornelas, District 1 City Council member and Recreation and Parks Commission liaison. “When they don’t feel invested in, they don’t feel sacred.”

In the second and third years of the pilot program, both the mentorship and internship opportunities will be expanded beyond the City of a Merced employees to include other public agencies, local businesses, non-profits, faith groups, local senior center, and members of the community who wish to participate. Additionally, all youth served during the pilot program are invited to continue to take part in any subsequent years’ paid job training and recreational activities after the completion of their initial three-month program.

The three-pilot program is scheduled to start in 2021 and will run through 2024.

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