At the I Am Ali Festival in 2017, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer laid out the city's comprehensive violence prevention strategy which is based around 6 key pillars including enforcement, intervention, and community mobilization.
Reimage, a partnership between KentuckianaWorks and the Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods, is designed to address the prevention pillar by giving youth involved with the court system access to resources, like education and jobs, that can help them get back on the right track.
“Giving these young people a second chance is not only the right thing to do, it’s good for our economy and a key part of our strategy for creating safer neighborhoods,” Fischer said.
One critical piece of the Reimage model is mentorship. Young people in the program are paired with adult mentors who can support them and help guide them to a solid foundation in life.
"Young adults in Reimage have the talent and desire to improve their lives, but their circumstances can be challenging," says Jami Garth, the Mentor Coordinator for Reimage. "That's why mentors are so important - by being a support system, they help the youth build resiliency so they can deal with the unpredictable things life throws at them."
Every Reimage participant is assigned a professional case manager who works with them regularly and is responsible for assessing their needs and connecting them to the best resources. "The role of the mentor is just to be there for them and take an interest in their lives. That makes a world of difference," says Garth.
Reimage mentors are asked to make a one-year commitment that includes meeting with their mentee one hour per week and communicating with case managers about their progress.
Abbey Riley, a commercial real estate lawyer, moved to Louisville in 2016 and wanted to make a difference so she became a Reimage mentor. "The opportunity to get to know someone from a different walk of life who needed more positive support appealed to me," Riley says.
She was matched with a young woman named Amari, 19, who was seeking to get her GED (she has now accomplished that goal and plans to attend college).
So what's their typical meeting like?
"We stayed at the Reimage office for the first few meetings, but now we usually go to lunch together. It feels like we're work colleagues and I'm just offering my perspective and experience. I help her clarify goals and identify the best way to reach them. I'm also a cheerleader who reminds her how much potential she has."
The positive impact of their relationship goes both ways. "Most of the people in my everyday life have had a lot of opportunities and support. Getting to know Amari has made me less insulated in my own world," Riley says.
For her, it's not just the mission of the program but also the commitment of the staff that make Reimage such a great volunteer opportunity for local professionals.
"Everyone in this program is devoted to helping young people reach their potential. If you're serious about making a difference for youth in Louisville, this is one of the best ways to do it."
New Reimage mentors are always needed. To learn more about the program and how to become a mentor, visit https://www.wearekycc.org/reimage.
Since 2015, Reimage has enrolled over 400 youth, many of whom earned a GED and found a quality job with the help of program staff. The program is funded by Louisville Metro Government and operated by KentuckianaWorks, the Workforce Development Board for the Louisville region.
Reimage does strategic recruitment in several West Louisville neighborhoods where the need is greatest, including Russell, Shawnee and Park Hill. However, eligible youth and young adults from all areas of Louisville can participate in the program.