The Youth & Shelter Services (YSS) GRIP Mentoring Program, operating in Boone and Story counties, was recently named first-place recipient of the annual Outstanding Community and School Partnerships Award by the Iowa Network of Community School Partnerships. These awards were created to recognize Iowa’s best collaborations between schools and communities.

YSS GRIP Mentoring is a school-based mentoring program matching kindergarten through eighth-grade students with community volunteers throughout Boone and Story counties. GRIP collaborates with eight school districts to promote and enhance student achievement and well-being through weekly, one-hour mentoring sessions.

In addition, GRIP provides technical assistance and training for a ninth school district that is replicating the GRIP mentoring model in its schools. GRIP has had outstanding success in its 14 years of operation, with an annual average of 400 active matches. Performance outcome data show that children in the program have benefited both academically and socially from their mentoring relationships.

GRIP mentoring program promotes supportive, lasting relationships between children and caring community volunteer adults. Positive outcomes include improved academic performance and relationship skills, better youth attitudes toward themselves and school and increased knowledge about dealing with alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

Besides the partnerships between YSS and school districts, the GRIP program garners community collaboration through volunteer mentors, who invest their time and resources in their youth mentees. GRIP is primarily funded by local funders such as ASSET, United Way, Juvenile Court Services and local government. GRIP mentors are active community members, who in turn involve GRIP mentees in community opportunities that youth may not receive elsewhere. These GRIP matches have resulted in youth involvement in local projects such as Food at First, the Humane Society and 4-H, among others.