Youth Academy volunteer mentors help cadets find success
Cadets who graduate from the Washington Youth Academy often have a mentor to thank for their success.
“Without Jeff, I think the whole Youth Academy experience would have been so much more difficult,” said Dakota Ross, a cadet during the 19-2 cycle. “It gives you someone that you trust to vent to about what is going on when you may not be comfortable talking with your parents, your classmates or the cadre.”
Given the importance of mentorship, the Washington Youth Academy is now encouraging more individuals to go through the mentorship application process, and ultimately – help a Cadet deal with the challenges of life. Jeff Hehe recognized the difference he could make in a young person’s life by teaching them the skills and confidence necessary to deal with difficult situations and make responsible decisions for the future.
“When originally approached to mentor cadets at the Youth Academy, I talked with my own mentor and he said it is right in my wheel house, so I went for it,” said Hehe.
Each cycle, Washington Youth Academy cadets are paired with a mentor that will help them get through the rigors of being at the academy, as well as help keep them on track following their graduation. Hehe has had the privilege of mentoring multiple cadets during his time with the Youth Academy as a volunteer.
“I learned that it isn’t just something you do after post-graduation,” Hehe said. “Being a mentor for a Cadet starts while they are still in resident phase. For Dakota and Jack, I was there the whole cycle, writing letters back and forth, building our mentor/mentee relationship.”
“Jeff was there to talk with, I knew him when he was Jack’s mentor and didn’t even think of having anyone else be my mentor,” Ross said. “I saw what he did to help Jack.”
Applicants that want to be mentors need to understand the expectations and requirements prior to volunteering. Mentors are asked to maintain weekly contact with their mentee, attend mandatory trainings and visit the youth academy on visitation days. After commencement, mentors are asked to maintain weekly contact with the mentee for the next 12 months with a minimum of four hours of personal contact each month.
“You really build that relationship with you mentor,” Ross said. “They get three mentor visitation days, where you only get two home passes and one family day. So you get more interaction with them than you do with say your friends. The letters from your mentor go a long way to keep you motivated.”
If you or anyone you know would be interested in being a volunteer mentor with the Washington Youth Academy, please visit https://mil.wa.gov/mentor-resources .