Nonprofit mentors students, wins first round of Brackets for Good

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The Youth Mentoring Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting students in Hamilton County, won the first round of the Brackets for Good contest that took place during the first full week of March.

The competition began with eight organizations: YMI, Indianapolis School on Wheels, Starfish Initiative, Indiana Uploaded, YMCA Camp Tecumseh, ORR Fellowship, Shepherd Community Center and the Washington Schools Foundation. YMI, the only nonprofit involved based in Hamilton County,outperformed all of the others, receiving a total of $2,367 in donations to its organization during the first week.

“People really identify with what we’re doing,” said Darren Heil, founder and president of YMI.“We’re here supporting schools. We’re here mentoring students and people say, ‘You know what, I want to give to that.’ People really identify with organizations about mentoring and supporting schools.”

YMI sends volunteer mentors into five Hamilton County schools to meet with students for at least one hour a week. They focus on the personal development of each individual child and strive to provide each child with a positive adult role model that shares a common interest with the student.

“We have kids who have just as many relational needs and are just as much in need of caring adults in their lives as any kid in any setting, so we want to shed light on the relational needs of kids who live in counties like Hamilton County,” Heil said.

YMI will continue to advance through the tournament by receiving more donations than the organization in its bracket. After the third and final week, Bluefish Wireless Management will donate a grand prize of $5,000 to the last organization standing. If YMI wins the contest, it intends to donate half of the prize money to Henryville High School, which was partially destroyed by the recent tornado in Southern Indiana.

“For us, yes, the money is great. We want to win that money and have people donate, but what we really want to do is have the opportunity to share our story: why we exist, why we do what we do in Hamilton County Schools and the importance of mentoring students, especially the way we mentor students,” Heil said.

Donations to YMI can be made at the Brackets for Good Website, bracketsforgood.org, through the end of the contest. The final winner will be announced at the end of the third round on Sunday.

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