Congregational & Community Outreach of New Mexico
Partners Envisioning Progress (PEP)
"Finishing the Race through Congregational and Community Connections"
A program of the New Mexico Conference of Churches (NMCC)
A Youth being paroled from out-of-home placement in a New Mexico juvenile facility is matched with a Volunteer Team of mentors. The Team will partner with the Youth to achieve his or her goals for positive development and successful completion of parole.
PEP staff and state juvenile personnel facilitate the Youth's linkage with Volunteer Team. The Youth and the Team agree on positive goals and work together to achieve them in a systematic way that empowers the Youth to make responsible decisions.
The project lasts 12+ months, depending on the Youth's sentence. Someone from the Volunteer Team is in contact with the Youth at least once a week. Six months or more after release, or once the Youth completes the conditional release period, the formal PEP program is ended. Achievements are celebrated, and all parties complete evaluations of the program.
Prior to release, team members visit the Youth in a juvenile facility. Half of the project takes place after the Youth is released from the facility. The Team and the Youth may work together in the community (possibly including an organizational setting) and the Youth's home environment.
Volunteers provide a caring presence and build a positive relationship with the Youth. The Volunteer Team helps the Youth by being someone they can count on to be present for them, to listen and help with the practical adjustments to life on the outside, which may (but need not) include:
- Help getting into and/or staying in school
- Employment assistance
- Basic computer skills
- Managing a budget
- Parenting classes/Support
- Understanding tax forms, credit forms, applications
- GED/higher education counseling, including financial aid
- Motivational encouragement to follow through on plans
- Other life skills
Youth coming out of the very structured environment of a juvenile facility need support if they are to succeed in carrying out the terms of their Release Agreement. Half of released youth do not succeed and end up back in the juvenile system or in the adult system, due to a lack of enough positive support in their environment.
A Volunteer Team can work together, bringing different gifts and perspectives for mutual support and encouragement for each other and for the Youth in the partnership.
Second Chance for New Mexico Youth
The New Mexico Conference of Churches works with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) affiliates in twelve counties through the Second Chance for New Mexico Youth Collaborative to involve local organizations in responding to the needs of youth. All the youth in this program are requesting mentor teams. They are in this program voluntarily and asking for support from mentors.
The PEP provides:
- Enlistment and screening of prospective Youth participants
- Training of volunteer teams and matching with youth
- Ongoing support and supervision of volunteer teams and youth
- Support in finishing a partnership, celebrating and evaluating
Who can form a team?
Teams will usually be formed from people within a specific congregation or parish. Sometimes a small group such as a ministry team, a class, or a fellowship group may wish to form a Team as a project. However, a team may be formed from individuals with a passion for service to youth.
Some Teams choose to add one or two participants from outside the group because of their particular expertise.
Can a congregation form more than one team?
The optimal size for a Team to work with one Youth is two to six people. If more people are interested, it is advisable to form two or more teams.
For responses to further questions, to set up an informational session and learn more about the PEP project, or to arrange for training for a Team, please contact:
the Rev. Ed Katzenberger
Jardines de Valle
Second Chance Partnership
New Mexico Conference of Churches
336 N. Camino del Pueblo
PO Box 606 (Mailing address)
Bernalillo, NM 87004-0606
Grant Received for Second Chance Project
The US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs has awarded a grant to the Second Chance for New Mexico Youth Collaborative. The Collaborative unites the PEP Program of the New Mexico Conference of Churches and Big Brothers & Big Sisters affiliates of Central New Mexico, Northern New Mexico and San Juan County under San Juan County Partnership as the lead agency. The goal of the project is to provide team mentoring and coordinated support to incarcerated youth in a 12 county area of New Mexico.
Working with New Mexico’s Children, Youth and Families Department, the agencies will deliver re-entry support services for youth as they return to their community. Youth will be mentored beginning in a secure custody facility and continuing after release for no less than one year. Success will be measured through the Youth Outcome and Strength of Relationship Surveys.
The three-year project will focus the respective strengths of partners to recruit and train mentors, primarily from faith organizations, enroll youth through the juvenile justice system, match mentors with youth and supervise the mentor relationships. PEP will focus on its contacts in the faith community and other areas to provide volunteers who will mentor the youth.
The award is for $615,000 over a three-year period and will serve at least 169 youth. The PEP Program will receive approximately $140,000 for its part in the work of the Collaborative.
The young man pictured below has completed his parole and has moved away from the Albuquerque community. One of his mentors, a middle-aged woman, continues to hear from him on a regular basis. She passes on news to his other two mentors and his PEP Case Manager. Although he struggles to achieve new directions in his life, his success comes in the context of having been institutionalized for five years of his young life.
While in the PEP program, he served on a panel for orienting volunteers, spoke to the NMCC Board, made a recruiting trip to Taos (El Pueblito UMC), and visited the State Legislature to speak in favor of a bill that would fund programs for youth mentoring.
He is pictured here visiting with Lieutenant Governor Diane D. Denish at the Roundhouse in March of 2009 during the session.
At one training event, he said to the PEP staff and volunteers, "You need to start working with youth a long time before they're paroled. They have to get to know you before they are on the "outs". Once they're released, it's a lot harder for you to keep in touch with them, unless they know you're someone they can trust."
PEP has been working hard to respond to what this youth - and others - have said. PEP Case Managers attend Multi-Disciplinary Team meetings for youth as soon as possible after they are committed to a juvenile facility. With information gleaned there and from other sources, the PEP staff can better know the youth's needs and match them with an appropriate team of mentors.
The training of volunteers is crucial to the success of PEP. Foundational preparation helps them become familiar with the program, learn about the youth, anticipate issues that may arise, and most important of all, learn how to listen. Through panel discussions and role-plays, mentors have a glimpse of how the youth may view the relationship.
This youth and her PEP Case Manager are speaking to volunteers about their experiences. She was tutored for many months by a mentor from a Mennonite church. As her release date neared, a second mentor from the United Church of Christ joined the partnership. She has now completed her parole and is living with her mother, who recently was herself released from an institution.