Empowering Newcomers: CWS Lancaster’s Youth Mentoring Program

February 6, 2024

CWS Lancaster launched the Youth Mentoring Program last year, a vital support system for newcomers aged 15-24. This innovative program provides essential guidance to individuals as they navigate the complexities of their new lives. Each participant is paired with a committed volunteer mentor, creating a one-to-one connection to assist them in achieving various goals, including academics, vocations, physical well-being and cultural identity.

The mentors, passionate about making a difference, are actively engaged in assisting refugee youth and young adults on their journeys. From aiding in scholarship applications to providing support for first-generation college students, crafting resumes, trying out for sports teams, creating bank accounts and establishing connections with vital community resources, the mentors play a pivotal role in shaping the futures of these aspiring individuals.

A key element of the program’s success lies in a unique collaboration with the Touchstone Foundation, a local nonprofit focused on youth mental wellness. This partnership opened doors for Youth Mentoring Program participants to take part in the transformative Rise ABOVE Youth Summit. This Summit was specifically tailored to connect refugee youth with essential mental health strategies and resources available in Lancaster County.

“The experience of meeting other young people was good since I didn’t know anyone, and the truth is that it helped me a lot to feel better without fear of going out,” shared Marleny, a 22-year-old participant in the Youth Mentoring Program who attended the Rise ABOVE Youth Summit only six weeks after arriving in Lancaster from Guatemala. “I learned that what I am going through is a process and that there are more people who went through this and over the years were able to make their lives better than they were because of the excellent opportunities that there are in this country.”

Marleny’s journey became a testament to resilience and personal growth. The summit not only provided her with a newfound understanding of her own process but also instilled the courage to embrace the opportunities that her new home, Lancaster, offered.

Today, Marleny cherishes the friendships she formed during the mental health workshops. She is now connected with two other Spanish-speaking participants, creating a supportive network that extends beyond the program itself. As these young individuals progress, led by mentors and benefiting from collaborative efforts, they not only shape promising futures for themselves but also add to the vibrant tapestry of Lancaster County’s diverse community.

To learn more about the work of CWS Lancaster, visit their website.