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United Way of Lancaster County


Touchstone Foundation awards first Youth Mentorship Partnership grants

(Source: Touchstone Foundation | Bench Mark Program)

The Touchstone Foundation has announced its first three grant awards made under a new initiative to train adults as youth mentors.

A total of $47,000 has been disbursed, the foundation said: $20,000 to Court Appointed Special Advocates, also known as CASA; $15,000 to Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Area; and $12,000 to Bench Mark Program.

The Touchstone Foundation works to increase access to youth mental health services and promote awareness. The grants come from its Youth Mentorship Partnership, which it launched in response to the findings of a countywide youth mental health needs assessment released last year. Numerous respondents who took part in listening sessions told moderators they want trusted adults in their lives with whom they can share hobbies and activities and talk through life issues.

All three nonprofits that received funding already engage with local youth. The funding will allow them to conduct “mandated reporter” training, which teaches the signs of child abuse and how to report it; and “youth mental health first aid” training, a trauma-informed approach to youth mental health and development.

Shanece Bowman

All told, they will be able to serve more than 400 young people in the coming year, Touchstone said.

“Youth mentorship is a critical component of a young person’s life,” Touchstone Program Manager Shanece Bowman said in a statement. “Providing this opportunity to increase mentorship in Lancaster County reflects what we heard directly from the youth during the listening tour.”

The awardees plan to use the grant funds as follows:

Bench Mark Program: Bench Mark provides strength conditioning and life skills training to young people at high risk of delinquency or who are already involved in the justice system. The grant will support mentorship in its Open Gym program; up to 24 mentors will be trained, serving an estimated 47 youths.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Area: Big Brothers Big Sisters is a longstanding one-on-one mentoring program. The grant will support its High School Bigs program, which matches high school and middle school students with each other. An estimated 100 children will be served.

Court Appointed Special Advocates: CASA provides court-appointed advocates to assist children in abuse and neglect cases. The grant will support CASA’s Older Youth Mentorship Project, which assists teens aging out of the foster care system and helps them become self-sufficient adults. The grant will support the training of eight mentors serving an estimated 275 youths.