How Becoming a Youth Mentor Changed My Life

              I could not have asked for a better first professional fulltime job. At the beginning of 2021, I was a fresh-faced hire that did not know how anything operated in this field and was worried about how I would fit in. Almost halfway through 2021, I am still a fresh-faced hire with an additional million questions but after meeting and understanding the fantastic people at Prevention Is Key, I take solace in knowing I’m working in a place with genuine people that care about the work they do.

Nissim Hayes, Youth Mentor

              I was hired under the PEER Youth Mentoring grant and knew my responsibilities would revolve around building this new program and laying a foundation for success but past that, I was clueless. I was unaware of the multitude of programs housed by PIK and unaware of the community impact and lasting impression PIK has in numerous towns, organizations, treatment services and the like. I did not know I was walking into a company that actually had evidence of its strives for strengthening community ties. At a recent staff meeting, my director Barbara Kaufmann put it best, “PIK is a small company but we have a lot of programs and initiatives in motion and have been doing this for over 30 years.” It had dawned on me in earlier months that I had a lot of catching up to do to understand the significance behind some of PIK’s work, but I had no idea they were that rooted and impactful!

               Building the PEER Mentoring program has been a welcome challenge, often oscillating between rewarding and frustrating. Informing the community that we exist and have something beneficial to provide has been difficult at moments and sometimes particularly silent work, but it has put my coworkers and I in a fantastic position to meet wonderful people. I joined a strong Prevention team, headed by Barbara Kaufmann and Patrice Reilly, that oversee work like SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment) and OFRT (Overdose Fatality Review Team). I was able to go out with CARES (Center for Addiction, Recovery, Education, and Success) lead by Emily Monks and Erica Shortway and see firsthand the immediate positive influence that have in people’s lives. I learned how complicated substance use can be and how important it is to meet people where they are at by becoming a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist, a course taught by Patrick Roff.

               In merely a couple months, I have come across hundreds of people that have aided my growth, personally and professionally. Naming all the coworkers, team members, police officers, service directors, and people that simply needed someone to listen to them would be impossible but I’m appreciative to every single one of them and makes me even more determined to catapult PEER Mentoring to the level of excellence I know it can be at.