Refugee youth are in a unique position within their family. They often adapt more quickly than their parents to the culture and language of their new country. Yet, they are still kids in need of support and guidance as they navigate the challenges of the teenage years.
Our Youth Mentor program pairs refugee teens with an adult role model who can help them navigate U.S. culture, learn life skills, and work towards their future goals.
“Mentors play an essential role in the life of our refugee teens,” explained Rebecca Grimes, Youth Program Coordinator. “They act as a tour guide to life in Indianapolis – whether that’s helping with homework, showing their teen a great park to play soccer, or educating them on U.S. culture. They are a point person, an “expert” on life in America. Mentors can provide education about things in the U.S. that the teens may not be able to get from their parents or friends, because they are arriving with different bodies of knowledge.”
The program also offers monthly group activities with Exodus for mentors and teens to learn and have fun together. Groups have learned about car maintenance, cooked basic meals, played soccer and kickball, learned from a police officer about safety and law in the U.S., planted trees with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, and enjoyed rock climbing and a zip lines at Zip City. “Working with Exodus and the Youth Mentor Program has been such a fun journey,” said Claire, who mentors a brother and sister pair with her husband Jon. “We’ve practiced English, helped our mentees with their homework, introduced each other to our favorite songs, tried some new foods, tried some new activities (roller skating was an adventure!), attended an Indy 11 game (thanks to Exodus), and spent many hours talking about some of life’s biggest questions. This experience has been extremely eye-opening and I am continually impressed by the perseverance and strength of refugees.”
“My mentor is like a cool uncle. They help me out with things, give advice, and that’s pretty cool,” said one teen.
“It has been so great to see the teens utilize their mentors,” Rebecca said. “Our teens have aspirations and goals. They ask great questions, and are thinking about the future, and are just looking for someone to point them in the right direction for where to start.”