Reach and rise

MARQUETTE- January is national mentoring month, and to help celebrate, the YMCA of Marquette County is offering a new therapeutic mentoring program for at-risk youth.

The YMCA has recently adopted the Reach and Rise Therapeutic Mentoring Program. The program is a free one-on-one mentoring program for youth who might otherwise have failed in a mentoring program where the mentors were not trained in therapeutic skills, said Melissa DeMarse, Reach and Rise program leader. The program matches youth with mentors for one year and the mentors meet with the youth for one to three hours each week.

“The Y mission is social and emotional wellness as well physical and educational, so we grabbed on to this right away,” DeMarse said. “We wanted to be able to provide those services to youth who might otherwise not be able to get them.”

Reach and Rise was first started in 1992 in San Francisco, where it became successful. In 2013 it was able to get federal funding and partnered with the Y USA, the national organization for YMCAs in the country. In 2013 they were extended a grant through the juvenile justice and delinquency prevention program and were able to get the funding to expand it to 38 states. The Marquette County YMCA applied and is now the only YMCA in Michigan that was approved for the grant and is offering the program, DeMarse said.

As the referrals start coming in from the youth, DeMarse said she will have a family meeting with the youth, then if she sees that a youth fits with a mentor then they have a match meeting.

“Once they’re matched and have time together there’s a growth plan that’s developed and pick one or two goals based on the needs of the youth and the family, so the mentors are intentional about working with them and incorporating activities that help them build skills to meet their goals,” DeMarse said.

Youth, ages 6 to 17, can be referred to the program in many different ways. They can be referred by a teacher, counselor, principal, other YMCA programs, community agencies, friends, family or by the youth themselves.

All of the mentors go through a 15 hour training and are 23 years of age or older. The mentors learn paraprofessional counseling skills, which includes roles of being a mentor, communications skills, issues young people face, recognizing and reporting child abuse danger and strength based and solution focused approaches and understanding of family dynamics and terminating the mentor and mentee relationship. There are currently seven mentors in the program and the YMCA is always looking for more, DeMarse said.

“I have no program without mentors,” she said. “I’m very excited about the group I have now. They are all just very active physically and creatively. So I think it’s going to be a very good experience.”

Aurora Ryan is one of the first mentors for the program. She currently works as a mechanical designer and a part-time server. Ryan said she decided to apply for the program because she was looking for different volunteer opportunities.

“This program seemed like a good match for me because I like children and showing people new things,” she said. “I love my community and what it provides for me. It’s only fair to give back.”

Ryan said she has participated in other mentoring programs such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, but the thing she’s most excited for with Reach and Rise is being able to take her mentee off-site.

“I can’t wait to take them to community events and explore the Marquette area while bonding and learning about each other,” she said.

Another mentor who’s excited about participating in this program is Dominic Davis of Marquette. He said that the best part about this program for him will being able to see his mentee achieve his goals, no matter how big or small.

“I’m hoping that my mentee will be able to walk away from the program feeling more confident in himself as an individual and in his own abilities,” Davis said.

The reason Davis is participating in Reach and Rise is because he said he feels that the success of a community hinges on the opportunities that are made available for the youth and the time invested in them.

“I don’t have money nor do I have a lot of ‘things’ that I can give to another person, but I do have time and experience to share,” Davis said. “I understand the power of a mentor/mentee relationship because I have them in my life; I am the product of them. That’s why I’m involved.”

For more information on the Reach and Rise Therapeutic Mentoring Program or to apply to be a mentor contact Melissa DeMarse at 227-9622 ext. 13 or at

Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243. Her email address is