Leaving home is hard for most young adults. Navigating that process alone is even harder. Kyndall Miller knows this firsthand—but with her mentor’s help, she did it, and she is thriving.
Now a first-year student at the University of Louisville with plans for a double major in criminal justice and social work, Kyndall is committed to helping other young people find their own paths forward. She became a youth advisor to the National Mentoring Resource Center—an OJJDP program—in 2020, after completing the 9-month Youth Advocates for Mentoring training through MENTOR.
"I grew up pretty poor. My whole life we lived in low-income areas, and my schools were not great," said Kyndall, a Kentucky native. "The college application process was horrifying for me. I am a first-generation college student, and I had no one holding my hand and telling me what to do."
The college and scholarship application processes were "daunting," Kyndall said. “You are 17 or 18 years old, and you are left on your own to figure out the next four years of your life.” For help, she turned to her mentor from Covington Partners, an OJJDP grantee in Covington, KY. “My mentor was an affirming voice. She encouraged me, and she believed I could do it. That meant so much,” Kyndall said.
With her mentor's encouragement, Kyndall started researching schools and focused on being authentic in her applications and essays. She also worked hard to obtain as many scholarships as possible so she can graduate with little to no debt. A few months after Kyndall’s college search began, the acceptance letter from Louisville arrived.
Rather than relish in her accomplishments, Kyndall thought about how she can help other low-income young people achieve their goals. Mentoring has been instrumental to her success, and she wants to ensure that other youth benefit from a supportive relationship with a peer or adult.
"I can use my experiences and my voice to help children like me who live in lower income areas or who go to a school that doesn't have as many resources. I know mentoring can help kids in poverty by providing support in challenging situations."
—Kyndall Miller, Youth Advisor, National Mentoring Resource Center
Kyndall has been involved with mentoring programs for most of her life, both as a mentee and peer mentor. She said she is thrilled to serve on the National Mentoring Resource Center’s Youth Advisory Council, to help ensure that youth voices are represented in mentoring programs throughout the country.
The National Mentoring Resource Center is a comprehensive resource hub for mentoring professionals, with trainings, resources, and toolkits; it also provides program support and no-cost training and technical assistance. The National Mentoring Resource Center Research Board offers research-to-practice models and practitioner insights. OJJDP's support for the center is part of the Office’s significant and longstanding investment in youth mentoring.
In addition to serving on the Youth Advisory Council and attending college full time, Kyndall volunteers at a local mentoring organization where she helps young children develop literacy skills. She tells her mentees to believe in themselves and their abilities.
"Even though people may try to invalidate or undermine you—because they are older, or have a higher economic standing, or went to a better school—remember that your experiences and your voice matter," she said. "There is somebody in this world who can benefit from listening to you, from hearing your story."
We're all ears.