“Don’t give up even if it’s hard,” is the sage advice of 13-year-old Adam, a participant in the OJJDP-supported 4-H Mentoring of Utah County program. Adam is the oldest child in a large family. His mother wanted him to participate in the mentoring program to help him avoid negative influences in the wider community, including high rates of drug use.
Adam likens achieving life goals to doing tricks on a trampoline. “If you want to learn how to do a front flip on a trampoline, don’t get discouraged if you fall on your back,” he said. “Keep learning and working toward your goal.”
Operated by Utah State University, Utah 4-H Mentoring is a nationally recognized program designed for youth ages 9–15 and their families. The program operates in areas with high rates of poverty and above-average rates for substance use and juvenile delinquency. With a focus on prevention, Utah 4-H Mentoring helps young people like Adam build successful futures. The goal of the program is to reduce delinquent behaviors, such as opioid and drug use, and increase positive outcomes for the mentees, the mentors, and their families.
Utah 4-H Mentoring receives OJJDP funding as part of its Opioid Affected Youth Initiative, which supports programs for children and their families who have been impacted by the opioid crisis and drug addiction. In 2020, OJJDP awarded nearly $9 million to organizations working to assist opioid-affected and at-risk youth and families. In 2021, the agency anticipates awarding another $9 million to support this work.
Adam and his younger brother both have 4-H mentors; they also participate in the program’s mentoring club, which brings program youth together for enriching afterschool activities. The 4-H Mentoring program also includes a family strengthening component that Adam’s family enjoys. Events range from local outings to an annual family camp.
“The 4-H Mentoring program has helped me learn cool new things and focus on working toward my goals. My mentor is so fun to be with, and it’s exciting to spend time with him instead of just watching TV and doing nothing.”
—Adam, mentoring program participant
“The mentoring afterschool club is really fun. My family went to 4-H family camp too, and we had so much fun together,” Adam said. “We also go to the monthly family night out activities. Our favorite activity so far was ice skating.”
Perhaps the best part of the 4-H Mentoring program for Adam is what he’s not doing. “I love spending time with my mentor instead of just sitting around playing on the computer,” he explained. “We go to a park and play sports or do other fun activities. My mentor is so fun to be with, and it’s exciting to spend time with him instead of just watching TV and doing nothing.”
Adam has become more active both physically and mentally since joining the program. “The 4-H Mentoring program has helped me learn cool new things and focus on working toward my goals,” he said. “I want to graduate and become an engineer. I want to learn how to do programming and 3D design.”
With clear goals in mind, Adam is taking concrete steps to build his future. He is committed to doing well in school and to exploring new hobbies and interests. “Too many kids are inactive,” he concluded. “It’s nice to try new things. It’s also great to work toward a goal. No matter what, you have to keep working hard.”
Whether you are flipping on a trampoline or finding inspiration for the future, Adam knows that you have to keep moving, keep doing, and keep striving. If you fall, bounce back.