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Nonprofit partners youth with industry professionals

Juliana D. Norwood | 9/5/2012, 5 p.m.

Youth Mentoring Connection awakens at-risk youth to their power, unique gifts and purpose by matching them with caring adult mentors and placing that match within a structured group dynamic that provides the resources youth need to reach productive, conscious adulthood.

"Our vision is of a community where young people are truly seen and not just watched, where society understands and accepts its responsibility in meeting the needs of all young people, and where young people bring their gifts back into their communities as productive members of society," said founder Tony Lore.

The program starts with a Rites of Passage Retreat that breaks down distrust and prepares young people to embrace the mentoring experience. Then the youth are paired with a trained adult mentor in a site-based program. Many times youth are connected with mentors at high-profile entertainment entities such as HBO, Warner Bros., Paramount, and BET.

The organization's community-site mentoring programs match middle school children with volunteers from the community, while the work-site programs match high school youth with employees of a corporation and takes place at the corporate site. Groups meet every other week for a nine- to 12-month period, alternating between one-on-one time and more structured group sessions.

"One-on-one mentoring helps young people to develop a powerful sense of self while the structured group model creates a vital feeling of belonging," said Lore. "Mentors also benefit from the program by returning to their communities with a greater awareness of the challenges faced by young people, the beautiful resilience manifested by these youth and the overwhelming capacity of young people to transform their lives."

The youth mentoring program identifies its objectives as giving young people a sense that the greater community cares about them, starting youth on their way to conscious adulthood, providing them with access to the resources necessary to achieve social and academic success, helping more young people graduate high school and move on to meaningful higher education that supports their dreams, and awakening society to the needs of at-risk youth.

In its 10 years of successful operation, YMC has seen the graduation rate of its program participants increase threefold over the citywide average.

Oscar winner Jamie Foxx recently hosted a night of Jazz, food, and a special screening of the critically acclaimed film "Thunder Soul" at The Broad Stage in Los Angeles, and proceeds from that event went to support the Youth Mentoring Connection.

For more information on the organization, including becoming a mentor or donating to the cause visit the website at www.youthmentoring.org.