Community Conversations: Youth Mentorship with Shanece Bowman and Coach Thomas

The Touchstone Foundation has started to collaborate with organizations in Lancaster County to implement a Youth Mentorship Partnership Program. This program aims to connect Lancaster County youth with adult mentors from the community.

In 2022, we paused our Children’s Behavioral Health grant cycle to reassess the current needs of Lancaster County. “After seven years we thought that it was more than necessary to pause our children’s behavioral health grants program in July 2022 to reassess the mental health landscape in Lancaster County” said our Executive Director, Anna Kennedy.  

Over the next year, from July 2022 to July 2023 we were able to successfully conduct an updated needs assessment in Lancaster County which included both extensive qualitative interviews with over 100 young people, ages 14-26, and a comprehensive quantitative survey of parents and caregivers about their child’s mental health.

This year we began the process of funding youth mentorship in Lancaster County. Our goal is to support workforce training programs for staff and volunteers, such as Youth Mental Health First Aid, trauma & resilience training, and more.

In an effort to highlight the many positive benefits of youth mentorship, our programs manager Shanece Bowman sat down with her former cheerleading coach to talk about their time together and how their relationship was an anchor to her success today! Below are some snippets of their conversation, the full conversation is available on YouTube! 

Shanece: I met Coach Thomas when I started at Reynold’s Middle School at the age of 12. A , when I was 12, a very pivotal time in a young person’s life.   

Coach Thomas: At that time, I worked in the guidance office. M, my principal talked to me and said nobody wanted to be the cheerleading coach, and she said, “Oh, just do it for one year.” Just do it for one year, and I ended up doing it for 16 years. The one thing that made it really special of all my memories is all the years and all the girls and each group, there were special girls that just melted my heart, and Shanece was one of them.” 

Shanece: There have been a lot of years in between, and I just want to point out that it is so important in mentorship to remain a consistent presence even beyond the years of middle school, and high school; we have stayed connected for 23 years. 

Coach Thomas: Middle school is a very difficult age, and I’ve talked to a lot of people who would never consider working in a middle school and my response is,  
Well, somebody’s got to love them. I mean, it’s that in between age, where you’re not really an adult, you’re not really a child. Your group was especially special because it’s the only group of girls where you were all friends, and it was the only group that went on to try out at McCaskey, and every single girl made the squad, which made me extremely proud. 

Mentorship Then Vs. Now

Coach Thomas: At that time, we would do things together in the summer like go to Hershey Park and look at colleges together, and at that time things that we could do then you can’t do now like sleep overs and riding in personal vehicles.  

Shanece: I want to touch on that a little bit because,because we are launching The Youth Mentorship Partnership Program that Touchstone Foundation is launching. We are really focused on the mentors , getting the training necessary to provide a safe environment for the youth. 
Like Coach said, you can’t necessarily do what was allowed or accepted back when I was growing up, which was sleepovers, riding in personal vehicles, and weekend trips but this program is really focused on training mentors in what is appropriate. We want mentors to be trauma informed and understand  mental health informed, because that is what our kids need today

To learn more about our programs manager Shanece, click here.

To learn more about our Youth Mentorship initiatives, click here.