Welcoming Amy Sammons

Amy Sammons has been hired as the second person to ever serve as program director at Mentoring Plus. We are so excited to have someone with her experience and expertise join our organization!

Amy has over 25 years of experience as a social & emotional behavioral interventionist/strategist, and recently retired as a coordinator from Boone County Schools. She’s worked to address crisis situations with youth and families as a member of the school trauma team, which is a critical practice for this organization. Her ability to plan and implement programs within our program strategy will help M+ to mature and expand our services. And Amy’s relationships and history of collaboration will offer M+ with new opportunities to expand our recruiting efforts, providing greater services for even more families.

The previous program director, Robin Anderson, has left some big shoes to fill. After serving M+ for nearly ten years, Robin made a huge impact on the organization and the lives of the teens we serve.

Now, as we enter this transition with Amy, we’ll look to pick up where Robin left off. Amy has said time and time again, “I really believe in what we’re doing here.” She’s recently told the board chair that she thinks the organization is on the verge of a big breakthrough.

Thanks to people like Robin and Kevin Kennedy, who founded M+, who have laid the foundations for a strong and stable organization, Amy can help to take us to the next level. Welcome to the team, Amy!


Longtime Program Director Says Goodbye

It is with great sadness we announce that long-time volunteer and program director, Robin Anderson, has moved on from Mentoring Plus. After working with this organization for nearly ten years, Robin is pursuing other interests.

What started as a volunteer gig to work with local youth, quickly turned into a passion and eventually a career. Her experience as an educator gave her the background to connect with the teens, guide them through our curriculum, and steer the program to ever-greater heights.

Robin is the kind of person that will go to the state capital to meet with legislators, fighting for not-for-profits like M+. Then she’ll come back to Newport, and disinfect the entire building to make sure it’s safe for our students. She’ll help to plan and organize a fundraiser. Then she’ll be the first one to show up at that event and the last one to leave. M+ has been more than just a job for her, it’s been a passion. You can see that, not just because of the love she’s shown us, but because of the love and connection that the kids have with her. She’s sometimes been the last and only person that our kids will trust. And she has stepped up to be the person they needed every time.

Kevin Kennedy, the founder of M+ and the person who hired Robin, has this to say:

“Robin came to M+ in the early years as a very enthusiastic volunteer.  Her exceptional talents were soon recognized and she was offered a staff position. Robin demonstrated a passion for the M+ mission and the teens she served. Her fiery commitment to the less fortunate was unwavering. As Robin continued to grow and thrive in her work, it was obvious to everyone she was a leader and hence became our first program director. As program director she exceeded all expectations and was responsible for much of the agency’s progress. In looking back over the years, I clearly saw God’s hand in our work, and Robin was a wonderful example of His Grace impacting the lives of our kids. I extend to Robin a heartfelt thanks and  a deep sense of gratitude for her many years of hard work, passion & commitment & wish her God’s Peace as she walks her path.”

Thank you, Robin. We’ve been so blessed to have you!

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Three Graduates in 2020

Class of 2020, we salute you!

The world is facing a crisis that will be written about in history books. Our lives have been disrupted, and a cloud of uncertainty looms over us all. While we are all in this together, I couldn’t help but think about my students at Mentoring Plus in Newport Kentucky, I miss them.

To the senior class of 2020, we want you to know we applaud you all for your hard work. Even in such unprecedented times, we are proud to announce that three M+ youth will be graduating from high school this year. It warms our hearts that we’ve have been able to work with these three youth, and track their growth over the years while they were successful in overcoming some big challenges. We enjoy the process of seeing students learn, mature, and blossom and reach this point of success.

Caitlin Thomes

Caitlin has been participating and working with Mentoring Plus for more than 2 years. Caitlin has diligently worked aside mentoring plus staff, case manager (Lisa E.), life coach (Barb), as well as with her grandparents to assist her in overcoming extreme barriers, develop skills and work toward independency of getting and keeping a job, and applying and moving into her first apartment. This youth has come a long way and continues to set new goals for herself. After much hard work, long hours of studying, doing homework and maintaining passing grades Caitlin will receive her high school diploma from Holy Cross Highschool this year, being part of the 2020 graduating class. Through hard work beside her case manager (Lisa E.), life coach (Barb) and the support of her grandparents, this youth has overcome obstacles. Caitlin is a youth who was successful starting with the tradition program at mentoring plus while making and reaching goals, getting a job, and earning passing grades to transitioning into our young adult program and learning how to get and maintain an apartment, budgeting and continuing in higher education plans. Best of luck to you Caitlin, we are proud of you, and hope you continue in all your success. As part of the 2020 class, your class will not only make history, but you will go down in Mentoring Plus history as someone who despite barriers and challenges have been able to rise to the top and continue in a journey of success. CONGRATULATIONS!

Damion Jones

Damion, better known as DJ, has been attending Mentoring Plus programming for 2 ½ years, and has overcome many challenges. DJ and his mother have expressed how being part of the Mentoring Plus program has provided DJ with encouragement and has lifted him up from being in low emotions states at times. His mother states that DJ has received the supports he needed, to help him blossom over the years. DJ will receive his high school diploma from Ryle High School for 2020. He is a bright young man who looks to have a promising future in front of him with hopes and ambitions to learn and work within the plumbing industry. Along with working with staff and his mentor (Nick) DJ has defiantly shown dedication, hard work and much resilience throughout his high school years. He was able to maintain and keep a job for over a year, while maintaining grades, continuing to engage in program at Mentoring Plus and developing a close friendship with his life coach. Through his senior year, DJ has worked toward this goal and several other goals both he and his case manager have set, through dedication, hard work and working closely with his mother (Kristy), case manager (Lisa E.), his life coach (Nick), and his school. He has been able to ride along with people whom currently work within the plumbing industry and has been able to ask questions directly to people working in this field to get some of the best answers and real-life experiences. DJ is excited about learning more about the industry and was set to continue on his ride along when the COVID 19 swept up all by surprise. While preparing to finish his high school career successfully DJ has continued to demonstrate hard work in maintaining his grades, and getting work completed for school. DJ has not allowed for challenges and barriers in front of him due to COVID 19 to stop him from achieving his goals. Best of luck to you DJ, we are proud of you, and hope you continue in all your success. As part of the 2020 class, your class will not only make history, but you will go down in Mentoring Plus history as being known to be a friend to all, demonstrating kindness towards others, demonstrating a kind and good heart, as well as someone who looks for the positive in others, all while facing your journey that lies ahead. CONGRATULATIONS!

Miranda Baldwin

Miranda Baldwin graduated from Highlands High School on May 23, 2020. She has applied to Gateway College and is preparing for her entrance testing. She would like to study nursing.

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Fundraiser Postponed, Now What?

The 2020 Seeds of Hope Gala was going to be a grand event. The fundraiser, originally scheduled for March 20th, would be celebrating its tenth anniversary. This year also marks the 225th anniversary of the founding of Newport, KY. Mentoring Plus, headquartered in Newport, was hosting the event in Newport’s legendary Syndicate, and was honoring one of Newport’s most popular citizens, city manager, Tom Fromme. Registrations were beginning to pour in. The stage was set for a spectacular night of fundraising and celebration.

Then the COVID-19 virus struck.

What does a non-profit do when its largest annual fundraiser gets shut down?

That question is just the tip of the iceberg. It opens a pandora’s box of follow-up questions for us about how our program will operate on a restricted budget, or what new fundraising efforts can be made to replace the event, and how can the star of the show, in this case Tom Fromme, still be honored and celebrated? Not all of these questions can be answered quickly, as circumstances are constantly changing. But Mentoring Plus is moving forward as much as possible.

Above all else, M+ is focused on the kids and families that we serve. We’ve adapted our programming and outreach to accommodate the new environment. But without funding, the program can only survive so long. Finding a substantial replacement for the Seeds Gala became the next major priority.

First, #GivingTuesday jumped up in the calendar. Upon seeing so many organizations with an urgent need for funds, the annual day of giving was moved from Thanksgiving up to this coming Tuesday! May 5th is #GivingTuesdayNow, and should act as a catalyst for many contributors around the world.

Similarly, Kentucky’s annual day of giving has seen a record engagement in the wake of the health crisis. Kentucky’s countdown will also begin on May 5th, with #KYGives culminating on May 12th.

In the meantime, Mentoring Plus leaders spent the end of April reaching out to past major donors, raising nearly $20,000 as of this writing. Additionally, some M+ supporters hosted online fundraisers that brought in several hundred dollars for the organization.

Finally, as we head into May, we are seeking to pull all of this positive momentum together into one focused effort. We launched a major campaign on GoFundMe, the world’s largest and most trusted fundraising platform. The goal is to raise an additional $35,000 by the end of May. We are hopeful that this campaign will be promoted far and wide by all of our supporters, gaining contributions from a large number of people. $5 here, $20 there, and maybe a few $500 donations sprinkled in…

So what about the Seeds of Hope? As of this writing, the timeline of returning to normalcy is still uncertain. We have tentatively postponed the event until June 26th, and hope we can pull together an event worthy of our guest of honor, Tom Fromme. Anyone who purchased tickets or contributed as a sponsor will have the opportunity to attend the rescheduled event, as all purchases will transfer to the new date. Given the circumstances, we anticipate a smaller, more intimate event. With all of the fundraising activities we’ve got lined up, we’ll be able to place a greater focus on celebrating Mr. Fromme and M+ youth rather than fundraising.

The fundraising efforts start now. With your help, we’re confident that M+ will reach its $35,000 goal, power through the summer, and survive to the next fundraiser in September. Please donate today.

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Program During Pandemic

The changing landscape brought on by CoronaVirus has been a challenge for so many people, businesses, and organizations. Mentoring Plus is no exception, and navigating this new landscape has taken monumental efforts from our team.

At its core, the program flourishes as a site-based, face-to-face mentoring program, and provides a loving, family-style atmosphere where youth and life coaches can come together. That doesn’t exactly make for an easy transition to this new online-only world we’re living in.

To make matters worse, the health scare and quarantine orders have created additional stresses for the youth and families that we serve. Some of our teens have suffered from a history of child abuse or neglect. Nationally, 68% of child abuse is committed by family members. So now there’s this situation where some young people are finding themselves “trapped” at home. No school, no part-time job, and no Mentoring Plus program to which they can escape. And this is on top of the more common stressors that most Americans are facing: Where will I get food and other groceries? How will I pay my rent or mortgage? When will things get back to normal?

The entire M+ team has stepped up to provide as much support as possible throughout this difficult season. From the board members to the volunteers and every staff member in between, the response has been significant. Program Director Robin Anderson quickly set up a private Facebook community for the youth, life coaches, and case managers, creating a fun and safe space where the M+ family could stay in touch with one another. The program’s family-style dinners were converted to delivery meals, packaged up and transported directly to the homes of our families. We added hygiene and other essentials to those deliveries, as well, turning our on-site resources into a mobile delivery service.

The case managers, in particular, have really stepped up. Staying in touch with the families has been more important than ever, so they’ve made extra phone calls, video calls, home visits, and anything else they can think of in order to keep the youth and their families healthy during this time. In many cases, they have been the frontline in protecting the M+ teens and serving M+ families. In uncertain times, it’s the case managers who have acted as beacons for the community, helping our neighbors to find some semblance of stability. All this, while also navigating their personal journeys through the crisis. They have families of their own. Their jobs, while not glamourous to begin with (Mentoring Plus, like many non-profit organizations, operates on a shoestring budget), have become more cumbersome while offering fewer benefits. And yet, they continue in the mission of empowering disadvantaged youth and their families.

Mentors are remaining active, with nearly 80% of them communicating with their teen multiple times a week. Board members have stepped up fundraising efforts to make up for canceled and postponed events. And our audience is staying engaged, with our social media activity reaching new heights over the past six weeks.

The world has changed. Mentoring Plus has changed, too. Every day we hear more about the “new normal,” and we’re pivoting to meet those new circumstances head-on. With our dedicated team, and with your help, Mentoring Plus will come away from this chapter stronger than before.

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A Note from the Mentoring Plus Board Chair

April 1, 2020

The COVID-19 challenge has turned our daily lives inside-out, and forced us to adapt to a “new normal.” This is true for everyone from the wealthiest to poorest among us, and it’s particularly challenging for those who were facing high risk and adversity even before this virus arrived. As the world navigates through physical and psychological distress, I wanted to take the opportunity to tell you how Mentoring Plus is working to address the crises.

First, we are recommitting to our mission: We empower disadvantaged youth and their families to fulfill their potential, and provide them with the courage and resources to pursue that potential. We’re doubling down on our intensive case management, offering more one-on-one time and education services for the youth. We’re transforming the youth/lifecoach family-style meals at our campus into a delivery service that brings nutritious meals directly to the youth and their families. We’re renewing our efforts to bring job services to the parents and guardians who are facing major cuts or job losses. And we’re exploring new therapy options for the youth as they try to adjust to a new level of chaos.

We’re also refocusing on communication, both internally and with supporters like you. As this crisis has forced the world online, we’re enhancing our use of virtual and instant communication. Through a partnership with NKU, we’ll soon bring you greater social media content than ever before, with unique storytelling and engagement opportunities (You can follow us on Facebook and Instagram now.) Additionally, our program director has led the creation of a private Facebook group; a place where youth, families, life coaches, and case managers can freely communicate with one another. This will greatly enhance the strong sense of community and trust that we’ve already established, while allowing us to maintain safe social distancing protocols.

Finally, we are shifting our attitude. I’ll admit that I struggled to meet some of the challenges brought on by this virus. Honestly, I felt frozen as I faced the onslaught of challenges. Our largest fundraiser was postponed, leaving a major financial hole to fill. Our program, which thrives as a site-based, group meeting with 15-20 people, had to be totally reconfigured. And our staff, who are truly the altruistic saints of the nonprofit sector, have had to face reduced hours even as they transform our mentoring and service strategies.

But every great obstacle provides a great opportunity. As Mentoring Plus enters its second decade, I know that we’ve already faced and overcome other difficulties. And looking at our future, I’m reminded of Rudyard Kipling’s immortal paean to perseverance: “If.” It’s worth revisiting in full, and repeating as a daily meditation in the weeks ahead. I hope you will join me, and “keep your head when all about you/ Are losing theirs and blaming it on you/ …trust yourself when all men doubt you/ But make allowance for their doubting too/ ….or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,/ And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools.”

At Mentoring Plus, we have the tools, the team, and the conviction to take on this challenge and overcome adversity. We’ll emerge from this crisis stronger than ever before. We’ll provide better and more comprehensive services for the youth and families in our community. We will truly empower them to fulfill their potential so that they, too, can emerge from this crisis feeling stronger than ever.

Thank you for your continued partnership. We will never forget that the work we do is made possible by the compassion, volunteerism, and donations of our neighbors. We look forward to delivering on our promise to guide kids, support families, and strengthen communities.

With grit, grace, & gratitude,

William LJ Cole,
Chairman of the Board

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Dorothy Sets New Goals

Dorothy, who is pictured in orange in the picture above, has been in our program for some time now and has continued to grow and continues to demonstrate her kind, energetic, charismatic and spirited personality each week. We are so proud to announce that through much hard work, and dedication, she will be entering the 12th grade of high school next year should she continue to maintain and sustain passing grades and excel in her assignments. Currently she’s in 11th grade and planning for goals after life of high school. Dorothy has shown new levels of dedication in school by getting her grades up and earning passing grades. as she looks forward to graduating high school. She spends much of her time with her nieces and nephews, with whom she shares an apartment. We are proud of this youth and everything she is working towards. By working with a case manager and life coach at Mentoring Plus, Dorothy has started to set realistic goals for herself now and for the future. Dorothy has stated that she would like to get a job and move to an apartment on her own one day after she finishes school. We are so proud of this youth and all she is working towards, and aspiring to be. Keep up the work and continue spreading kindness to all those around you, Dorothy!

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New Youngster Enjoys His Start at M+

Daniel came to our program at the peak of many obstacles he was facing in his personal life, including having difficulties in school and having some behavioral outbursts in his home life. Since joining M+, Daniel has been placed on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for support in school to help him manage his learning, keeping him on-track with all assignments, quizzes, and tests. Despite all challenges he has had to endure at his young age; he shows up to program every week eager to learn and explore new activities and conversations with others. Daniel is 12 years old and is currently the youngest youth participating in the program. Daniel is a bright young man, who we are extremely happy to have with us each week. Outside of M+, Daniel spends much of his time with his younger siblings, and enjoys listening to music, watching videos and has stated that he really likes the Five Nights at Freddy’s video game. Daniel has recently been matched with his first Life Coach at M+, and the two have really seemed to click. We are so proud of this youth and all he is working towards.

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Mentoring Plus Music Festival

Mentoring Plus is entirely funded by donations and some private Grants. Funds have been generated by an annual Seeds of Hope Award Banquet in the Spring and an end-of-summer golf outing. (9/27/19 at A.J. Jolly golf course.) This year, M+ will also present a Music Festival at Southgate House with 18 to 20 acts, featuring the popular local party band, The Leftovers, and guests, veteran local recording artists, The New Lime, who were on Columbia Records in 1967 and had several charted singles on Top-40 radio air waves and were inducted into the No.Ky. Music Legends Hall of Fame in 2013, playing their last performance ever.

Special guests from Nashville will also be on the bill, including Mike Reid, former All-Pro Cincinnati Bengal defensive tackle, chosen in the first round of the NFL draft in 1970, who is also now a Grammy-winning songwriter, pianist and recording artist, having won Best Country Song for Stranger in My House, recorded by Ronnie Milsap, and Best Single for I Can’t Make You Love Me, recorded by Bonnie Raitt. Mike has also written over 20 #1 country music singles, including one he released and sang himself in 1991, Walk on Faith.

Also from Nashville will be Jeffrey Seeman, a slide guitarist who has released two recent solo albums on acoustic 12-string slide guitar, and was the electric slide guitar player for Wheels, a Cincinnati band with a successful album in the late 1970’s and backed up singer/songwriter Craig Fuller when he left Pure Prairie League, in the early days of country-rock. Seeman recently performed at the Ludlow Garage 50-year Reunion, and worked at Ludlow Garage as a teenager.

The concert includes G. Miles and the Hitmen playing R & B with the 20-piece NKU Big Band horns and the Dave Webster/Gary Devoto Band, Lost Henry, Electric Indigo, and the up and coming teenage band, Trauma Illinois, as well as NKU’s jazz combo and jazz guitars upstairs.

The back bar acoustic stage features the Bromwell-Diehl Band, with Elaine Diehl (formerly of the Biscaynes and WNKU) and Paul Bromwell, once voted the best rock guitarist in Chicago back in the 1970’s. Also on the acoustic stage are Ben Walz, his brother, Jake Walz, pianist/vocalist Cliff Adams, the all ladies’ trio, Raison D’etre, Carter New and the Diversions, a duo.

The event will be emceed by veteran DJ, Ernie “Fatman” Brown.

Tickets are $35/$40 day of show at ticketweb. VIP seats next to the stage, which include dinner, are $100 by contacting Mentoring Plus. For more information go to: mentoringplus.org or contact Mickey Foellger at 859-653-6772


Reaching New Milestones

There are so many good things happening at Mentoring Plus this month, we couldn’t stop with just one youth highlight. All three of these students have had impressive summers, and are ready to get back to school. One was hired for his first job. One celebrated the one-year anniversary at his job. And one has made a great first impression as a new youth in the program.


Youth Ricardo G.

Ricardo is a bright young man who has been through so much in his young life. Ricardo spends much of his time with his younger sister when he is not participating in our Mentoring Plus program. He is a great role model for his younger sister. Ricardo has demonstrated a true sense of what we here at M+ like to focus on, caring for others and building them up through support and compassion. Ricardo has spent his summer staying involved in our program here at Mentoring Plus and was recently hired for his first job. We are so proud of this youth and all he is working toward. Ricardo has already set a goal for what he would like to do with his first earnings and is demonstrating the understanding of budgeting his earnings.

Good luck in your first job, we are proud of you!

Youth Damion J.

We are so proud to announce that through much hard work and persistence, Damion will be entering the 12th grade of high school this month. He is a true example of dedication, pushing forward through tough circumstances, and he’s a mirror of what hard work can look like despite facing barriers in one’s life. Damion is a bright, talented, and kind young man who successfully kept a job for over 1 year and is currently waiting on a much-earned raise. Keeping on a straight path and working through difficult situations as they arise are all things that Damion is continuing to do.

We look forward to you completing your 12th grade year in high school, and continuing growing into the positive, kind-hearted young man that you have demonstrated to all your fellow peers within the M+ program.

Youth Haley B.

Haley is one of the new youth who has started our program. She recently finished our beginner night and will soon be moving into our main program night with her newly acquainted life coach. We are so happy to have her as a part of our program, and have already seen much growth from her in a short amount of time. She is currently learning new ways and techniques to build peer relationships, and communication with others in a positive and healthy manner. She has demonstrated dedication in our program, showing up each week and continuing to build positive relationships with fellow students. When faced with a tough situation or hardships in her life, she has demonstrated resilience. Haley continues to break out of her shell each week and show how sweet and caring she truly is towards all the youth and staff in the M+ program.

We are very happy of you Haley! Keep pushing forward each week in program.