LEWISTON — The city’s Recreation Division will soon add a new program to its expanding lineup: mentoring.

Lewiston was recently awarded a $62,500 grant from the National Recreation and Park Association that will create a mentorship program for youth affected by opioid and substance use.

Last week, the City Council passed a resolution supporting the grant award, stating the funding, “will provide the Recreation Division the means to establish a youth mentorship program that will launch this January.”

According to the grant framework, the city will work with association staff to develop an equitable youth mentoring program, implementing “group, one-on-one youth mentorship and family engagement opportunities within parks and recreation.”

In a recent news release, Recreation Superintendent Nicole Welch said the grant “is a great step towards diversifying Lewiston Recreation’s programs and expanding our community outreach efforts.”

“We are looking forward to supporting Lewiston youth by connecting them with passionate community helpers in Lewiston,” Welch added.

According to city staff, Lewiston Recreation was selected due to meeting several criteria including, “a clear commitment to support youth impacted by opioid use, substance use, and Adverse Childhood Experiences, as well as connecting youth to evidence-based mentoring opportunities.”

According to the release, the grant will support the program for the next three years, with recreation staff developing the program’s structure over the fall. It will also assist with program costs related to advertising and kickoff programs; staffing and mentor training and development; activities and initiatives for both mentors and youth; and “creating an exciting in-house space.”

Welch said the community space will be used in a “productive, meaningful way to reach youth who need this support the most.”

“Lewiston Recreation looks forward to themed weeks and goals as mentors and mentees share what they have in common amidst the promotion of safe and healthy lifestyles,” the release stated.

The release said Lewiston Recreation’s application also demonstrated a commitment to advancing equity and an organizational commitment to prioritize justice, diversity, equity and inclusion.

The grant comes online just as Lewiston develops action plans for its Choice Neighborhoods redevelopment grant, which shares similar ground-level goals focused on youth.

“Lewiston Recreation has had conversations with community stakeholders regarding engaging youth in healthy ‘out-of-school-time’ programming, including city leaders, police, school department, coaches, nonprofit leaders, and other community partners,” Welch said.

She described the grant as a good fit with the Recreation Division’s focus over the last year to diversify opportunities to include a wider range of residents in programming.

According to the release, the process will engage partners, stakeholders, and youth in the development and design of the program, and the opportunities created through the grant funding “will enable at-risk and low-income youth to have access to recreation and leisure programming.”

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