UA Little Rock students mentor youth offenders

News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A program at UA Little Rock, which gives students the unique opportunity to mentor youth offenders, is currently recruiting new student mentors. UA Little Rock Junior Amy King first found out about the Juvenile Justice Mentoring Program during her freshman year of college. At the time she was just majoring in history, but after mentoring a youth offender, she quickly decided to add criminal justice as a second major. 

“From that point forward, it changed the entire trajectory of my academic career and my future goals,” King said. 

Through the program, King was paired up with a mentee who was transitioning from juvenile detention back to society. The goal of the program is to reduce recidivism rates and keep the teens from entering the adult criminal justice system. 

“It feels like a great responsibility at the same time it’s a great opportunity,” King said. “I also truly believe that we’re not defined by what we’ve done, the choices we’ve made, so I thought it was important if I had the chance to reiterate that to a young person and hopefully guide or reguide, redirect their path, that would make a difference.” 

UA Little Rock Senior Infinity Wallace also said it has been life changing since meeting her 17-year-old mentee. 

“I’ve seen that he’s such a great kid and I think that’s the important thing that sometimes we’re so quick to label other people, especially children,” Wallace said. “We’re so quick to label them as criminals, or thugs, or troubled or disobedient, but we’re not really taking the time to get to know them.” 

Associate Professor Tusty ten Bensel and another professor brought back this program two years ago. She said it gives both the student mentors and their mentees a unique opportunity. 

“They learn about the system, they talk to other people and then they also have the opportunity to give back to the community, which is the vital part of this for the students,” ten Bensel said. “For the mentees, a lot of times these mentors are the most stable component of their life.” 

In order to be a mentor, you must be a student at UA Little Rock and be 21 years old. If you’re interested, contact ten Bensel at ixzohra@ualr.edu.

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