Introducing the new Project Legacy peer-led mentoring program
In December, at the request of older siblings and middle-school aged youth, the Project Legacy healing community expanded to include a group of 12 girls aged 12-15. For the first time in Project Legacy’s 10 year history, we were finally ready to implement a peer mentorship model — something that has been our dream since the beginning.
This month, we are excited to introduce 5 peer mentors at Project Legacy, all alumni who have been participants of our program for significant time, ranging from 2 to 9 years.
All of our peer mentors have experienced many of the same challenges our adolescents are now experiencing — the challenges of generational poverty, a parent with an active substance use disorder or behavioral addiction, the refugee experience, and too often, the traumatic experiences of abuse, neglect and systemic racism.
They know what it’s like to attend schools where they have never had a teacher or counselor who looks like them. The youth of Project Legacy are the ones who have experienced the discipline disparities that have been in the news recently, but have really been their reality since they entered kindergarten. Representation matters, and it’s one of the reasons why we’ve worked to include adults from the same communities as our youth — on our board, with our volunteers, and with the hiring of Alysha Carlisle on our staff.
Peer mentors will be participating in ongoing education and skill building throughout their tenure with this program. In addition to ongoing training, our new adolescent program will include Healing Circles, study tables and tutoring, retreats at Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center, camping at State and National Parks, and cultural and civic engagement opportunities — all co-facilitated by our peer mentors.
In the coming weeks, we will be highlighting the different collaborations and partnerships that are now in place to bring much needed services to our youth.
In addition to our peer mentors, our new programs will be facilitated by adults who have experience working with young people — Rhata Samkuth, Nasra Jimale, Cesar Sandovel, Michael Benjamin, Don Baldus, Wendy Jahraus, Linda Walbruch, John Edmonds, and Jane Rosenman.
Today, with immense pride, we are proud to introduce you to the five new peer mentors of Project Legacy.
Meet the Peer Mentors
In addition to joining Project Legacy as a staff member and social work assistant, Alysha will be co-facilitating a middle school girls group to help young girls navigating the complexities of growing up and feeling comfortable in their own skin. She is currently pursuing a degree in Social Work at RCTC and will be transferring to Winona State University to complete her studies.
“I am excited to be a peer mentor at Project Legacy. Love, compassion, kindness, and understanding were among the many things that my upbringing lacked. My hope is to be able to be the person I needed when I was younger for this group of young girls. I will be helping with rides, homework, healing circles, and by providing any other support they may need. Most importantly, I will be a consistent person that they can depend on and trust.”
Abdi has been involved with Project Legacy for the past two years. A graduate of John Marshall High School, Abdi recently graduated from RCTC this year, and is accepted at both UMR and the U of M Twin Cities. Abdi will be majoring in biology to prepare for a career in medicine.
Abdi will be co-facilitating our new group for middle school boys, using his experience as a Project Legacy program participant to contribute to the lives of others.
"I've benefitted from the guidance of Project Legacy volunteers and mentors, and now I have the opportunity to pay it forward by providing that same guidance to younger boys.”
Paul is an alumni of Project Legacy who will be co-facilitating the middle school boys group. In addition to his volunteer work with Project Legacy, he is employed full-time and is a first generation college student.
“My role as a peer mentor is to give advice and guidance to younger boys. I will use my past experience and what I’ve learned over the years to help younger kids get through tough times. I believe everybody is capable of anything they put their mind to, and that they can become anything. I’m motivated to give back because as a young kid, I searched for guidance at struggled a lot. I believe if we start to mentor kids when the are young, they will have help in the long-run.”
Jay is a Project Legacy alumni who served in the Marines before beginning work in construction. He will be starting college in the fall at RCTC, where he will be pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and plans to transfer to Winona State University. In the future, he plans on using his education to work with youth and young people.
“As a peer mentor, I plan to help give guidance and direction to the youth that I will have a chance to work with. I want to help give a different perspective on life and help mold them into the best version of themselves or support them on the way. I am motivated to help younger kids because I love the big brother role, solely because I always wanted somebody who understood me like a big brother.”
Kristina is a Project Legacy alumni and will be a co-facilitator of the middle school girls group.
“My experience with Project Legacy has been absolutely amazing. Ever since I joined the program, I have never felt alone. I knew that if I ever needed someone to talk to, to give me advice or to have a shoulder to cry on, I had a whole group of friends there waiting. As a new peer mentor, I hope to create an environment that feels safe and loving for young girls — a safe space.”