Two HPU students lead a TJJD Mentoring Program
by Courtney Wilmoth, HPU junior
Go to class, grab lunch, stop by the library, go to work, attend an organization meeting later tonight – it’s a hectic schedule for a college student. A handful of Howard Payne University students can add “serve as mentor” to the list.
The university’s Baptist Student Ministry offers a Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) mentoring program that works with students at the Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex for girls. The Texas Youth Commission merged with the Texas Juvenile Probation at the beginning of December and thus adopted a new name. HPU’s ministry is led by HPU seniors Monique Ching and Ciera Culpepper.
The ministry pairs HPU students desiring to mentor with girls at the state school. Once paired together, they meet at least one hour a week.
There is an option for faith-based mentoring, in which a mentor can bring a Bible and discuss matters in a spiritual context. Most students from HPU choose this type of mentoring. Regardless of the type a participant chooses, however, the main goal is to make a positive connection.
“The goal is to share Christ with the TJJD students and really love on them in a way they probably have never experienced—with the love of Christ,” said Culpepper, a family studies major from Zephyr.
Their time together can range from just talking to playing games and even reading the Bible together.
“This is one of the most rewarding ministries ever,” said Ching, a communication major from Hong Kong. “Just being able to hear the girls’ stories and be there for them through this time of their life is amazing.”
Many of the students at the state school come from troubled or unstable backgrounds.
“I think the impact of the program is to provide the TJJD students with safe and healthy relationships,” said Culpepper.
Culpepper has a goal in order to meet the growing need for mentors at the facility.
“One of my goals is to get every girl at the state school matched with an HPU mentor,” she said.
Keith Platte, BSM director at HPU, has a goal of his own to help students at HPU connect with the girls at the facility through the chapel services TJJD students can attend.
“I would love to see Howard Payne students taking part in leading some of these chapel services for girls who don’t always get to hear the Gospel presented from people close to their own ages,” said Platte.
Allison Voss, chaplain at the Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex, values the commitment made by the HPU mentors.
“The time and effort spent by mentors at our facility is invaluable,” said Voss. “Our students look forward to seeing their mentors each week and develop a strong bond with them. Having a volunteer come and listen and support them makes our students feel valued and loved in a way that many have never experienced before. Howard Payne students are especially an encouragement to our students as they bring with them a sense of youthfulness, energy and diversity.”
Although it is a rewarding ministry, it is a tremendous commitment for a mentor to make to a student in need of a positive relationship. For Culpepper and Ching, this is a commitment worth making.
“If nothing else,” said Ching, “at the very least it is showing these girls that someone cares for them.”
Sidebar: Allison Voss, chaplain at TJJD, encourages any person who is interested in this mentoring program to get involved. Mentors are still needed as there are currently more than 20 students awaiting a mentor match. Interested persons can contact either Allison Voss, chaplain, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 325-641-4243 or Penny Riggs, community relations coordinator, at email@example.com or 325-641-4240.