With many children lacking the support of a positive role model, mentoring at-risk youth has become a nationwide priority. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Idaho, the Boise Family YMCA and the Casey Family Program created a collaborative program, Learning and Living, in response to this need. The program began with the purpose to serve more at-risk youth within their community. Its purpose is to provide one-on-one mentoring and tutoring to at-risk youngsters within a structured environment. Big Brothers/Big Sisters provides its expertise by guiding volunteers through a careful screening process, then matching them with a child. The YMCA provides the facilities and supervision, while the Casey Family Program trains onsite volunteers in tutoring youth.
The children that are a part of the Learning and Living Program are known as "Y-Buddies," and reap the benefits of having positive adult role models spend a consistent amount of time with them. The children spend at least a couple hours a week at the YMCA doing various activities with their mentors. Along with the help of their mentors, the children do homework, and play at the pool, on the basketball court, in the game room, on the climbing wall, etc. Many of the kids have developed computer skills with their mentors in the YMCA’s computer lab. The volunteers try to excite their respective "Y-Buddy" about education by offering innovative ways to learn. For example, one volunteer combines his Y-Buddy’s weekly spelling words with the basketball game, "HORSE." The program has served more than 30 children.
In the fourteen months since its inception, the Learning and Living Program has bridged a gap for volunteers and youth. The program has reached children who otherwise might not have a positive adult role model. Volunteers in the community frequently choose this program above other mentoring opportunities because of its structured environment and its association with the three collaborating organizations.