Bolder Options is an innovative organization focused on healthy youth development. The comprehensive mentoring program, wellness activities and leadership opportunities coordinate family, community, school and county resources in a united effort to support youth who are at-risk for dropping out of school or becoming involved in delinquent or unhealthy behaviors. Bolder Options engages youth and mentors in goal setting, physical activity, tutoring and community involvement to build confidence, maximize potential, and encourage healthy life skills.
Filling a Void
In 1993, the Minneapolis Jaycees Charitable Foundation (MJCF) established a task force of local residents and representatives from community organizations to conduct a needs assessment of high-risk youth in the Minneapolis. The task force agreed unanimously that a void in one-on-one mentoring opportunities existed and recommended the formation of a youth mentoring program utilizing structured activities and athletics to motivate at-risk youth. Bolder Options was founded as a direct outcome of that assessment and operated as a program of MJCF.
The first year, Bolder Options enrolled six youth in a 3-month long mentoring program that focused on running. In June 1998, Bolder Options became an independent 501(c)3. The program expanded to become a year-long, comprehensive program including case management and social work services for the entire family.
Growing Needs in St. Paul
After noticing a growing need for quality mentoring and intervention programs, representatives from St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS), SPPS Truancy Intervention Program (TIP), the St. Paul Police Department Juvenile Unit, and Ramsey County Attorney’s Office met with Bolder Options to discuss the possibility of expanding to St. Paul.
In 2006, Bolder Options was recognized by the Today Show as one of the best charities in the nation. The increased capital and community support surrounding the national media coverage allowed Bolder Options to begin serving St. Paul youth in 2007.
Expanding to Rochester
In continued expansion efforts, Bolder Options received earmarked federal dollars to open an office in Rochester. Rochester’s rising population and increasing need for youth-service agencies was on the radar of Bolder Options staff several years prior. Following a needs-based assessment, community meetings, and garnering support from Rochester Area leaders and youth-servicing authorities, Bolder Options hired program staff and began serving youth in June 2010.
As the Bolder Options program has grown, staff has worked to implement industry established best practices — truly becoming a leader in the field of one-on-one mentoring. Bolder Options is now recognized as an expert partner by Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota and hailed nation-wide for the innovative, one-of-a-kind programming. In 2014, over 2,300 youth actively participated in Bolder Options programming, which continues to achieve a success rate 50% higher than the national average.
Teaching youth to succeed in ALL of life’s races.
We are committed to building a community of caring relationships in support of our youth.
Bolder Options recognizes the importance of continual evaluation in order to monitor its impact and make improvements accordingly, and we evaluate outcomes in five key areas: physical health, social/emotional health, pro-social behavior, academic success and program satisfaction. Three major stakeholders are evaluated throughout the course of their involvement with Bolder Options: youth, mentors, and caregivers. In order to gain a comprehensive picture of Bolder Options’ effectiveness, our evaluation utilizes pre- and post-program surveys for all youth and post-program surveys for mentors and caregivers.
Below are highlights from the 2014 program:
- 87% of all youth surveyed learned how to break bigger goals into smaller ones, how to ask for help, how to solve problems and how to make good decisions after being in the year-long program.
- 99% of the youth in the mentoring program set at least one goal (with 95% accomplishing that goal).
- 96% of mentors saw significant positive changes in their mentee’s attitude, behavior, and ability to open up, and felt like they had a direct impact on their mentee’s life.
- 100% of mentors valued the relationship they created with their mentee
- Over 73% of caregivers saw an increase in their youth’s self confidence and self-efficacy. They observed vast improvements in their ability to communicate and to create positive and meaningful relationships with adults and peers.
Health & Wellness:
- Youth completed 202 running and biking events and 20 triathlons in 2014.
- 94% of youth stated that they are now more physically active than before being involved with Bolder Options, and more than 81% reported eating more fruits and vegetables.
- Both mentors and caregivers reported that youth are more physically fit, and more than half of the caregivers surveyed have observed their child making healthier nutrition choices.
- The youth in our on-site after school program reported being more physically active (94%), eating more fruits and vegetables (81%), and consuming less sugary drinks (76%).
- Youth in Bolder Options’ tutoring program stated they are now better readers and writers because of participating (86%).
- 89% of the students involved in tutoring said they were no longer skipping or cutting school.
- Tutoring program participants increased both their math and reading scores at a rate 10% higher than their grade-level peers nationwide, thus narrowing the achievement gap (2013).
- Youth in our mentoring program are doing better with assignments and homework (85%), grades (86%), attendance (74%) and school behavior (75%), and 90% said they would like to attend college after high school.
- Since graduating, nearly 70% of youth who went through the mentoring program are more physically active, 75% eat more fruits and vegetables, half have reduced the number of sugary beverages they drink, 100% have abstained from tobacco, drug, and alcohol consumption within the last 12 months, and 100% are on track to graduate from high school.
- Nearly 75% of the youth in our alumni program said they had not made fun of a peer in a hurtful way within the last 30 days.
- 76% said they have not sworn at or threatened anyone.
- 90% reported not damaging school property within the last 30 days.
- 83% of Alumni Mentors report that they still see positive changes in their mentees’ attitudes, behaviors, and ability to open up.
Do you know a child who could benefit from a healthy youth development program and the influence of a supportive adult role model?
Bolder Options serves boys and girls ages 10 to 14 in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Rochester, MN. Bolder Options youth are referred for a number of reasons- missing a lot of school, participation in a court-ordered diversion program, or identification as someone who could benefit from a one-on-one mentoring relationship.
- For Minneapolis or St. Paul, please contact Sarah Schaefer, Program Manager at 612.240.5243, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss our current referral options.
- In Rochester, please contact Scott Robinson, Program Coordinator at 507-993-0554, or email email@example.com to discuss our current referral option.
Youth in our programs live in the cities of St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Rochester, MN.
Adult volunteers hail from locations within commuting distance to these metro areas.