Personal Stories Bring Hope, Healing in the Age of Heroin

For the past 3 months, our teen Life Skills Lessons have focused on the prevention of drug and alcohol abuse. Using an evidence-based curriculum, the teens learned about the effects of heredity and environment on a person’s chances of becoming an addict. They were informed of high- and low-risk choices and created a personal plan for making healthy choices in the future. They had some difficult discussions with their mentors and other youth about their own experiences, the problems they see in their schools and communities, and whether or not any of it can truly be fixed.

This year, we were able to further engage our youth with the power of personal storytelling. Several local community members, like Vincent, spoke to our teens about their personal addiction and recovery journeys. Vincent is one of several volunteers working with Mentoring Plus through a partnership with the Grateful Life Center. Men who reach certain milestones in their recovery at GLC are able to work with the staff at both agencies to find appropriate paths to volunteering at Mentoring Plus – including sharing testimony with groups of youth, pitching in with event set-up and facility renovations, and preparing meals.

The message they bring with all of those efforts is powerful for our teens – addiction is real, and life-altering – but recovery is also real. In people like Vincent, our teens can see that there is hope in recovery; there is even the power to bring change to your own neighborhood. We hope their witness will impact the choices of our teens, and give them hope that the communities they live in can heal.

Executive Director Receives Leadership Award

Mon, 03/13/2017, The River City News

courtesy River City News/

 The Newport Business Association named its new officers, board members, and handed out honors to local businesses and individuals at its celebration in February.

“This kind of takes my breath away,” said City Manager Tom Fromme in accepting the Community Leadership Award. “The success we’ve had and the success we’re gonna have is because we all work together. This is truly a community-based award.”

City and county officials attended the event at the Syndicate, along with community members and local business leaders.

Kevin Kennedy, CEO of Mentoring Plus, was also honored with a Community Leadership Award, while Rachel Comte and Steve Mathisen were recognized as Volunteers of the Year.

Ken Lewis accepted Business of the Year for New Riff Distilling. Industry Salon was honored as New Business of the Year, an award accepted by husband and wife, Kate and Toby Moeves. Hedgehog Signs, owned by Jim and Pam Claypool, also received a New Business of the Year award.

The NBA’s officers for the next year are President Mark Ramler (Mansion Hill Properties), Vice President Bev Holiday (City of Newport), Secretary Jaime Niemczura (American Diversified Development), and Treasurer Drew Bach (Michael P. Bach, PSC). Board members are Michael Bach (Michael P. Bach, PSC), Lynne Cole (Republic Bank), Peggy Cook (Newport on the Levee), David Dalton (The Think Shop), Charlie Fry (Master Fry Defense Systems), John Marlow (Mokka and the Sunset Bar & Grill), Jack Moreland (Southbank Partners), Marvin Polinsky (retired), Tete Turner (Newport Independent Schools), Jon Salisbury (Nexigen), Larry Weber (Huntington Bank), and Tammy Weidinger (Brighton Center).

(Photos by RCN)

Volunteer NKY: Growing Grassroots Movement

Volunteer NKY Encourages a Culture of Volunteerism

Volunteer NKY is a movement to encourage social service volunteerism in Northern Kentucky.  People helping people is their tagline.

This movement started in 2015 when the Life Solutions Network hosted its first volunteer fair at the Life Learning Center.  It was a small event that prompted bigger thinking.

The Planning Team developed the following Vision:

  • We build a more vibrant and engaged NKY by easily connecting people of all ages and all walks of life with opportunities to serve.
  • We are all in it together, everyone makes the world a better place in their own unique way.
  • People volunteer to their purpose, passion and potential.

In 2016, a Facebook page was started, two Volunteer Vision workshops were held, a Best Practices tool for volunteer leaders was developed and another volunteer fair was hosted.

Volunteer NKY is in its 3rd year and is making progress; even bigger plans have been made.  They will:

  • Host 3 volunteer fairs at various locations.
  • Develop a process to link skilled volunteers and service learners to needs.
  • Create a Speaker’s Bureau.
  • Host a “retreat” for volunteer leaders to include networking and best practices learning.
  • Continue to rollout the Volunteer Vision process and Best Practices tool.

The regional team is influencing volunteerism strategically and systemically, complementing the work of local organizations that need volunteers.

Tony Aloise, Life Solutions Network

The movement is driven by volunteers and volunteer professional from across the region.  Partners include Mentoring Plus, Brighton Center, St. Elizabeth Healthcare, Women’s Crisis Center, Welcome House and the Life Learning Center.

The Life Solutions Network continues to provide sponsorship and leadership.   This is a volunteer-driven network for volunteers and social service professionals who choose to serve our community by building the capability of people in need.  It was founded by Tony Aloise, a Procter & Gamble retiree who developed a passion for “life skills and volunteer solutions”.

You can learn more about the Life Solutions Network or Volunteer NKY by following the embedded links.

Now We’re Cooking, with CCCE

Teens in the Tuesday Plus group are “getting their fill” in a new skill area, and having a lot of fun doing it! In February and March, the Campbell County Cooperative Extension Service is sending Melissa Pilcher, Nutrition Program Assistant, to our Program to work with our youth to “help them eat better and to stretch their food dollar.” Ms. Pilcher teaches a series of free nutrition classes throughout Newport, Bellevue and Dayton. The lessons are materials from UK following My Plate, which is the USDA’s guide for a healthy lifestyle. Ms. Pilcher enjoys gardening and teaching people how to use items such as chard, kale and zucchini.

While delivering the basic lessons on meal planning, reading food labels and knowing the recommended limits on fat and sodium, Ms. Pilcher incorporates cooking recipes using food that is in season and lets them eat what they prepare. These skills are essential to teens in our Tuesday Plus group, as they prepare to live successfully on their own.

If you know of a church or Program in Campbell County that would benefit from these free classes, please contact Melissa Pilcher at:

Melissa Pilcher
University of Kentucky
Campbell County Nutrition Program Assistant

Phone: 859 586-6101 ext 405

8 Things Teens Need to Know

By Belle Zembrodt, MS, LPCC
NKU Honors Program Interim Director

1. College is not the same as high school.

There is a lot more freedom in college than high school but with that freedom comes responsibility.  In high school you spend about seven hours a day in class with a teacher telling you what to do and reminding you when it is due.  In college you may spend three hours a day in class but you are expected to spend time outside of class reading, preparing for the class, studying and keeping up with your assignments on your own.  It is important to read the syllabus to know what is expected and when.

2. You don’t need to have a major right away.

Sometimes students feel a lot of pressure to choose a major right away but if you are not sure about what you want to do, take the time to explore.  Colleges have a Career Services office where you can identify your interests and goals and learn about majors and careers that would be best suited to you.

3. Know yourself.

Many students have not considered what their values are or how new ideas might affect their behavior. Values form the basis of decisions.   Take time to reflect on what you believe and be yourself.

4. Treat others with respect.

There are people from all over the world on a college campus.  Some of these people may have ideas and values very different from yours. Everyone has dignity and deserves to be treated with respect.  It is to your advantage to talk with people different from you to gain a broader perspective on life and your own values.

5. Use the student support services.

Many students think that going to tutoring or the writing center means they are bad students.  Actually it is just the opposite.  Good students use these services so that they can do better.   Students who are less successful don’t go to class or do the work.

6. Be healthy.

Sleep is so important.  Be sure to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night.  Eat healthy.  Exercise. Colleges have campus recreation facilities and joining an intramural team is a great way to exercise and make friends.  It is easier to manage stress when you are healthy.  If you do have a cold or cough, go to the nurse at the Health, Counseling, and Wellness office.

7. Ask questions.

Don’t be afraid to ask. Asking questions is a way to learn.   People on campus are here to help.  If you aren’t sure who to ask, ask anybody.   If they can’t help you, they can point you in the right direction.

8. Don’t give up.

College may be big and scary at first.  But before long, you will know your way around and you will be helping other people.

Families Matter joins forces with Mentoring Plus

by Judge Michael “Mickey” Foellger

Our program grows and gets better at its purpose of “guiding kids” by improving our ability to “support families” through our new Parent/Caregiver Support Group. The pilot program, which started last fall, offers two on-site meetings per month during regular youth program hours. Mentoring Plus is most pleased to welcome our professional facilitator, Thomas Cox MS, TM, who is the director of Families Matter, Inc., a counseling service based in Florence, Kentucky. Initial feedback from parents has been powerful and positive: “they feel heard” and say they have “someone to listen to them who understands what they’re going through,” says Program Director Robin Anderson.

Families Matter offers family mediation at its facility in Florence, and facilitates co-parenting custody agreements as well as alcohol and substance abuse counseling, and Tom Cox has been providing these services for 30 years. He calls the program Parental Impact, and brings his expertise to our Newport location on the third Monday and Thursday of every month.

Parent(s), custodians, or guardians of any of our kids in the program may participate, and Mentoring Plus made easy access a top priority. Like every other service at Mentoring Plus, the program is free for all families, no matter what. Volunteers provide free child care (for the younger siblings), as well as free meals, eliminating some major barriers that would usually make it too difficult for families to attend. And we even provide transportation to and from the program with our (recently donated) beautiful van. Their younger children stay busy in the arts and crafts room, or even the gymnasium, with the undivided attention of childcare volunteers. Volunteer Coordinator Laura Gordon explains that “this Support Group seems to be very successful at breaking down barriers within the family unit which allows for a healthy healing process”.

Mr. Cox takes a very practical approach, directly addressing concerns, issues and questions that parents have when it comes to raising teenagers, and focuses on helping them to solve the problems that arise. “We don’t want preaching or arguing, and try to establish conversations between the kids and their custodians about the impact of the decisions kids make, such as drugs and alcohol,” says Tom. There is an entertainment aspect to Tom Cox’s program. He is also an award-winning comedian, who has appeared at the Funny Bone and other venues.

“This isn’t a school program or an intensive therapy session, it’s a comedy show that also deals with some very serious real life issues, in a laid-back atmosphere,” says Mr. Cox. “Parents or guardians can come in with questions, and leave with some answers and direction.”

Quite frankly, Parental Impact is a perfect match for Mentoring Plus and greatly enhances our ability to strengthen our community by guiding our teens to become healthy and productive members of our community.

HYPE Brings Hockey to Mentoring Plus Kids

HYPE Cincinnati (Harnessing Young Professional Energy) made arrangements for a fundraiser for Mentoring Plus at the Cincinnati Cyclones game on Jan 11. A portion of all tickets sold in our designated section came back to Mentoring Plus. We took a group of our kids to the game and they got to play “Big Ball” on the ice between 1st and 2nd period. It was a fun evening!

To learn more about HYPE click here. If you have an idea for a fundraiser for Mentoring Plus, call our Program Director, Robin Anderson at 859-982-5895.

Hope through Grace

by Kevin Kennedy

I think it is part of our human nature to want to control our destiny. Whether in our own lives or with our children, other family members or friends – we strive to be happy and content and we want that for our loved ones.

We feel very strongly in this way for the Mentoring Plus kids. We know that they have suffered greatly for most of their lives with abuse, neglect, poverty, mental illness and violence. So when they enter our program and become part of our ministry, we begin immediately taking action to empower them to bring about positive changes in their lives. We work on building self-confidence, improving study skills, finding jobs, and improving relationships. It’s often a long and rocky journey, but eventually our kids begin to see the results.But is this enough? Will our efforts solve all of their problems? The honest answer is “no”. If we are truly honest with ourselves, we know that no matter how skilled we are professionals in providing programming and services, it is not enough. We alone cannot give these kids everything they truly need to begin their healing and hope for a better future. Hence, we become frustrated, resentful, judgmental and ultimately lose faith.

So what can we do to help our kids believe in the possibility of a better life…that it’s more than a dream? The answer is to instill hope. Hope through God’s Grace. Like the Apostle Paul who had the “thorn in the flesh.” When he sought the Lord for it to depart he was told, “Paul, my grace is sufficient for you,” (II Corinthians 12). The Lord was not telling him to simply bear with it, but He was telling Paul to overcome it through His grace!

This same Grace gives mentors, volunteers and staff the patience, stamina, wisdom and capacity to demonstrate love for the kids. The kids know this. They sense the constant care, concern and love that is shown to them. They know that their Mentoring Plus “family” values them, believes in them and will never give up on them. Eventually they begin to value and believe in themselves; laying the foundation for their healing and growth. As one of our kids was recently heard saying about Mentoring Plus, “This is my family; they can’t take that away from me.”

Voices: Teen Perspectives – Ben’s Story

When Ben* started at Mentoring Plus at the age of 12, he desperately wanted a mentor. Life had been difficult – full of troubled relationships and trauma – so Ben naturally wished and hoped for “someone, anyone, to talk to.” Like any new experience, he was “mellow” about it at first, but eventually became comfortable as part of the group. Four years later, he still attends the weekly Independent Living Program, with a priority on schoolwork and job search.

At 16 years old, Ben is thinking about the future. He goes to college-level classes at Gateway in the mornings and then takes a bus to his regular high school in the afternoons. He can laugh now about the “scariest” part of the whole experience (thinking he missed the acceptance phone call from the Gateway program) and is greatly looking forward to a graphic design class next semester. That class is the first step in his plan to become an artist for Japanese animation and graphic novel publishers. He also has hopes of studying abroad in Japan to gain experience in the industry.

When he’s not busy at Gateway, he’s still working hard at Mentoring Plus. He is trying to improve family relationships and find a job to pay for school. His favorite person at program is Kevin Kennedy, the executive director. Ben chose Kevin as a favorite without a moment’s hesitation, saying that Kevin “has been with me through thick and thin – he’s like a dad or a brother to me.” That long-ago wish for “someone, anyone to talk to,” has been fulfilled many times over, and it seems to show in Ben’s sense of hope for his own future.

*names have been changed to protect privacy

One Year Later: Teen Perspectives

ONE YEAR AGO, Masius addressed an audience of over 200 supporters at the annual Seeds of Hope event:

“My name is Masius; before I started Mentoring Plus, I lived in Alabama and moved to Cincinnati when I was 15. I felt like, in this place, I had been given up on. Like I didn’t belong anywhere – wasn’t wanted anywhere.

I had a difficult relationship with my mom and sister, and my dad never made an effort to be a part of my life. I was also unemployed, unprepared to get a job, and had no confidence in myself. I had no vision for my future, and that really didn’t bother me at all.

My friend Tyressa was attending Mentoring Plus and wanted me to join. So I did, and I started working on getting back into school and learning how to find a job. At Mentoring Plus I met wonderful people who cared, and motivated me to do more for myself. They believed in me, and nagged me, and pushed me to work on my goals, and that helped me get back some of the confidence I had lost.

Since I’ve joined Mentoring Plus, I have gained the skills I need to be independent – keeping a schedule, interviewing well, dressing for success, and a good work ethic.

I recently found a job, and I really have been doing well. The day I got the job, I felt like God had finally heard my prayers, and was rewarding my years of struggle and hard work. I also just got my driver’s license and saved up enough money to buy my first car.

My plan for the future is to get my GED and go to college for business, and someday open my own barbershop. I have opened a savings account and learned to manage money, which will help me achieve my dream of owning my own business. I want to thank Mentoring Plus for the help they have given me and for never letting me give up on myself.


ONE  YEAR LATER:  After graduating from Mentoring Plus six months ago, Masius is still working hard, having kept his job for over a year now. Masius also purchased a car, which has allowed him to improve his work schedule and increase his on-the-job training and advancement. He is continuing to work in his GED program, and still visits his second “family” at Mentoring Plus from time to time. We planted a “seed of hope” for him in 2012 – hope for Masius and for his future –  and we have been privileged to watch him grow into the hard-working young man he is today.