The Higher Education Mentoring Initiative (HEMI) provides qualified Hamilton County foster youth with access to a personal academic mentor. Beginning in high school, the mentor and youth form a stable, one-on-one relationship that is focused on preparing the youth for the completion of post-secondary education, job training or military service.
High school juniors and seniors in the foster care system in Hamilton County work with their mentors to create a plan that includes improving academic outcomes, graduating from high school and pursuing post-secondary options. Mentors are community volunteers who are committed to supporting youth. They meet with their mentees frequently to listen, offer advice and connect them to community resources that help them meet their academic and personal goals.
Mentees and mentors are matched based on the mentee’s interests and the mentor’s background and experience. Personal compatibility is also important. Mentors help youth reach their academic achievement goals and develop career readiness and general life skills. In addition to meeting one-on-one, mentors and mentees have opportunities to attend monthly meetings, trainings, holiday and graduation celebrations as well as other HEMI events throughout the year. Mentees have the opportunity to win scholarships.
HCJFS brought HEMI in-house in 2020 and runs the program with help from the United Way of Greater Cincinnati, which oversees fundraising and mentors. The United Way is working with Found Village to provide direct support to mentors.
HEMI was established as a partnership between Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners, Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services, the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Great Oaks Career Campuses, OhioMeansJobs and Mount St. Joseph University.