Keeping HOPE in the time of COVID-19

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Matthew Hamilton, a Secondary Social Studies Education student, works with a juvenile as part of the HOPE program.

The Helping Offenders Prosper through Employment (HOPE) program, a project that provides 1-1 mentoring to incarcerated youth, has been suspended due to the COVID-19 epidemic. Until March 23 when juvenile facilities were ordered to shut down and halt all volunteering programs, undergraduate students who serve as mentors for HOPE continued visits with their mentees who are incarcerated in LaPorte, Pendleton, or Logansport Juvenile correctional facilities in Indiana. Now, more than ever, youth in correctional custody need our love and attention to guard against the negative outcomes of prolonged isolation. We are physically separated, but we have to stay connected at heart.

HOPE mentors now forced to leave campus and return to their homes will stay socially connected with their mentees for the duration of this crisis through written cards – and we are looking for more volunteers to write to incarcerated youth. With research showing that prolonged isolation can lead to heighten levels of anger, anxiety, depression and suicide (Brooks, Webster, Smith, Woodland, Wessely, Greenberg, & Rubin, 2020), now more than ever a simple letter can make a difference.

Visit HOPE’s website at hopementoring.com for updates on the #keepingHOPE campaign. If you are interested in joining our writing campaign to help these youth feel connected to the world outside their correctional facility and to thank the IDOC personnel for their work with incarcerated youth, please send your name and email address to Tyesha Fordham, HOPE’s Reentry Liaison, at info@hopementoring.com.

Theresa Ochoa, HOPE’s Executive Director and Associate Professor at the IU School of Education, continues to communicate with Indiana Department of Correction to keep kids connected to their mentors. The entire HOPE Leadership team, including Niki Weller from IU Kokomo who serves as Site Coordinator at the Logansport Juvenile Correctional Facility, Chryssa Athens, a doctoral candidate at IU, who serves at Site Coordinator at LaPorte, and Caroline Crouch, who serves as statewide mentoring co-director and is a student at IU, will deliver weekly cards to each of the juvenile facilities. Please join us in making a difference in the lives of these youth during this challenging time.

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