James Harper, a happily married father of three, was relaxing in his living room a few hours after dinner time. It was raining and his daughters were baking cookies in the kitchen.


“It was late and we weren’t expecting company,” Harper said. “When my girls called out to me about a stranger walking up our long driveway, we were all concerned.”


Harper opened the front door to a wet, frightened boy standing on his porch. His name was Tyler and he had left the Youth Villages-Inner Harbour campus without permission. Tyler regretted his decision and asked if Harper could help him return to campus safely.


While they waited for authorities to arrive, James’ daughters brought them milk and cookies. Harper invited Tyler to sit under the roof to dry off, but Tyler said he preferred the rain.


“He told me the rain reminds him of his mother,” James said. “In that moment, Tyler got under my skin and captured my heart. I knew I needed to be a part of this young man’s life.”


As head pastor of a local church, James did not simply talk the talk; he walked the walk. He visited the campus the following day, enrolled in training to become a Youth Villages mentor, and became a consistent part of Tyler’s life.


Youth Villages’ mentoring program offers adults the opportunity to support a young person through an ongoing one-on-one relationship. The goal of mentorship is to provide emotionally and behaviorally challenged youth with positive adult influences to help them navigate and overcome life’s obstacles.


“I don’t know how much of an impact I had on Tyler,” Harper said. “But I do know how important it was to have someone show up for him week after week. He has experienced many broken promises and I was determined to be someone he could rely on.”


Harper took Tyler fishing, hiking, and out to dinner. They went on long walks and talked about life. Even after Tyler was reunited with his family, Harper continued to mentor Youth Villages- Inner Harbour children and has no plans to stop.


“James has been a perfect example of selflessness, sincerity, reliability, and encouragement,” said Kimmy Yon, Youth Villages community engagement manager. “We are so thankful for the incredible impact he has had on our young men.”


Yon remembers one teen telling her that he had no idea a man could be as kind as James Harper. Thanks to mentors like Harper, Von has watched youth learn to set their sights high and dream big.


“Through my experience with Youth Villages, I’ve learned that it is far more important for these kids to have a mentor than for me to have free time for myself,” Harper said. “I might have a busy schedule, but if I don’t invest in those who need me, how can I expect that from anyone else?

Mentoring at Youth Villages-Inner Harbour Campus

Mentoring focuses on providing consistent, positive role models for the youth on our Douglasville campus. Many of the youth in our residential care have little to no family engagement, which provides a gap of support that our mentors are able to assist with during the youth’s stay. Mentors commit to a minimum of four to six hours per month, for a six-month period, to be an active adult resource in the lives of their mentees. Once accepted into the mentoring program, mentors are able to spend time with their mentee to assist in encouraging them, engaging in meaningful and educational activities and being a supportive person while the youth is navigating their way through treatment. The impact that mentors have with our youth is life-changing. We encourage community members who are interested in bettering the lives of children, to consider becoming a Youth Villages mentor!


To learn more, please contact Katrina Word at Katrina.word@youthvillages.org

To apply to become a mentor, fill out the application here: http://www.youthvillages.org/services/mentoring/mentoring-application#sthash.zejIB4Xk.dpbs