Joining an organization is something students either choose to do as freshmen or as upperclassmen. For senior Elliott Darnall, being apart of an organization was not apart of her “to-do list” as a freshman but now is a member of Project Uplift, which has become part of her.
During her junior year, a representative of Project Uplift approached Darnall on the concourse encouraging her to consider being a mentor for their program.
Project Uplift is a unit of the Lee County Youth Development Center, Inc. that provides mentors to children in the Auburn areas. The goal of the program is to reduce and prevent juvenile delinquency in Lee County.
Since the opening of Project Uplift in 1973, almost 9,300 volunteers have participated in the program. Only a small percentage of the children have entered the juvenile court system during the time that they were involved with the program.
“I had an idea of what Project Uplift was from friends who did it, but I didn’t know what all it entailed,” Darnall said.
Students who wish to become a mentor for the program must attend a training session and pass a series of background checks in order to be approved as a potential mentor.
“Once I went to the training session, I knew that I wanted to become a mentor,” Darnall said. “One of my friends and I decided we both had enough time to be mentors so we’ve done it together.”
After attending the training session, Darnall and her partner for the program were able to decide how many kids they would like to mentor to as well as the age and gender of the child.
Darnall is a mentor to a third grader and spends several hours with her each week. Project Uplift requires mentors spend at least three hours a week with their mentee.
The pumpkin patch, trampoline park and the carnival are a few of the places they go when they spend time together.
“We try to do something different each week when we hang out, but sometimes we end up doing puzzles at my house while we make pizzas,” Darnall said.
Despite the program’s goal being for the mentors to teach the mentees, the mentors end up learning from the mentees.
“As cheesy as it sounds, I think I have learned more from my mentee than she has learned from me,” Darnall said. “For a third grader, she has been able to change my outlook on a lot of things.”
Darnall with her Project Uplift partner and mentor