Philadelphia Leadership Foundation
AmeriCorps National Direct FY 2011(New)
The Philadelphia Leadership Foundation proposes to expand opportunities for veterans and other underrepresented groups to volunteer with Amachi mentoring programs to reduce gang involvement, substance abuse, and arrest rates for youth impacted by incarceration. Thirty Amachi AmeriCorps members will engage 2,520 volunteers and will develop strong community and faith-based partnerships to embrace innovative, collaborative solutions to improve lives in thirty communities across the country.
Roughly 1.7 million children currently have a parent in prison, and an estimated 10 million children have had a parent incarcerated at some point during their lives (Simmons, C. "Children of Incarcerated Parents." CA Research Bureau, Mar 2000). The traumatic and sudden nature of the separation from a parent often leads to feelings of fear, anxiety, depression, and guilt for a child. Compared to their peers, children of incarcerated parents are much more likely to drop out of school or be truant, engage in high-risk, delinquent behavior or criminal activity, not graduate from high school or attend college, and subsequently become incarcerated themselves, leading to an intergenerational cycle of incarceration (Senate Report 106-404: Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriation Bill, 2001). The common denominator for incarcerated adults and youth is a lack of academic achievement. Up to 70% of incarcerated parents in State prison, and 55% in Federal prison, did not graduate from high school (Williams, N.H., 2009). Likewise, 70% of children of incarcerated parents demonstrate below-average academic performance, and these children are much more likely than their peers to drop out of school (La Vigne, N. "Broken Bonds" The Urban Institute, Feb 2008). This is a problem of national scope, and is present in all thirty of the proposed sites.
Mentoring at-risk children has proven to be an effective prevention and intervention strategy to help improve academic performance, decrease truancy, decrease high-risk behaviors, and help youth prepare for success in college and life. The long-term presence of a caring adult can make a profound difference in a child's life (Tierney, J. and Grossman, J. "Making a Difference: An Impact Study of Big Brothers Big Sisters." Public/Private Ventures, 1995). Youth in high-quality, long-lasting mentoring relationships demonstrate a better attitude towards academics, better school attendance, and a greater likelihood of entering higher education (Jekielek, S. "Mentoring: A Promising Strategy for Youth Development." Child Trends, 2002). According to a recent study by MENTOR, there are 17.6 million young people who could benefit from having a mentor but only 2.5 million were in formal, one-to-one mentoring relationships, leaving a gap of over 15 million young people in need of immediate and effective relationships with dedicated, committed mentors (O'Connor, Robert. "Mentoring in America" MENTOR, 2006). Further, there is an untapped opportunity to engage more members of the military and veteran population in service through mentoring programs. Veterans are, in general, more likely to serve community than non-veterans ("Civic Life in America" CNCS 2010). Additionally, mentoring youth was the highest ranked service opportunity self-identified by veterans as a place where they would like to serve and 76% of veterans surveyed targeted high school dropouts as an issue they would like to see addressed (Mary McNaught Yonkman, John Marshall Bridgeland "All Volunteer Force: From Military to Volunteer Service." Civic Enterprises, 2009). This data reflects a strong alignment of veterans to our nation's youth at a time when it is needed more than ever before.