A bolder option: Help Rochester youth set, achieve goals

April 12, 2018

They take walks together, talk about books and music, and even get some tutoring done. Allison Ducharme-Smith, M.D., a Mayo Clinic resident, and Mariah, the student she is mentoring, forged their connection through Bolder Options, a program that pairs at-risk youth with mentors to promote wellness and build leadership skills.

Dr. Ducharme-Smith is one of 24 mentors in the program, and 11 of those mentors work at Mayo Clinic.

Mayo Clinic also supports Bolder Options with monetary contributions to engage youth and build their confidence, maximize their potential, and develop lifelong skills. The program helps youth in setting goals, physical activity, tutoring and community involvement.

Better together

Since Bolder Options became a part of the Rochester community in 2010, approximately 150 Rochester area-youth have gone through the yearlong, one-on-one mentoring program. Each adult is matched with a youth, and they spend two to four hours a week together for a year. That may seem like a significant time commitment, but even the busy residents at Mayo Clinic who participate in the program say they get something out of it.

“A lot of times, residents have so much work to do that they can forget there’s a life outside of work,” Dr. Ducharme-Smith says. “Spending time with Mariah each week helps remind me there are other things I have time for.”
A twin and one of nine kids in the household, Mariah says she loves to spend time with Dr. Ducharme-Smith and appreciates the one-on-one attention with an adult.

“When her twin sister comes along with us, I can tell Mariah feels like she is showing me off, like ‘Here is my mentor,'” Dr. Ducharme-Smith says. Mariah’s sister also is in the program and has her own mentor, a nurse at Mayo Clinic.

“Being a mentor not only helps me be a better resident, but being a resident at Mayo helps me be a better mentor,” she notes. “It’s important for young girls to see that they can achieve their goals and go far in life. I want Mariah to know that she can attend medical school and work to become a doctor, too, if she wants to.”

Want to be a mentor?

Bolder Options has five girls and five boys waiting to be matched with a caring, responsible mentor. A weekly commitment of a couple of hours to play games, learn about cooking healthy meals, or just chatting over ice cream can create a lifelong effect for children who may not have someone they can look up to in their life.

You can join your colleagues who already have experienced this journey and be that light for the 10 youths awaiting mentors. If you’re interested in becoming a mentor for Bolder Options, visit the¬†Bolder Options website¬†and fill out an application.