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The HOPE Mentoring program is a subset of a larger team of colleagues that comprise the HOPE organization. The HOPE team researches incarceration, transition, and employment practices related to youth in the Indiana and greater United States area, with HOPE being an acronym for "Helping Offenders Prosper through Employment." 


The HOPE Mentoring Program Director is Dr. Theresa Ochoa, a professor of Special Education at Indiana University. Our leadership team is comprised of IU faculty, undergraduate students, and IU alum from a variety of majors and departments. Our mentors are undergraduate students from several Indiana University campuses, although we are eager to accept mentors from any Indiana college or University! 

Our mentors are majoring in education, criminal justice, psychology, social work, public policy, and many other fields. We accept students from all backgrounds and fields of study, and would love to discuss how HOPE Mentoring can complement your course work.








All mentors must complete facility screening requirements and HOPE online training modules to participate in the program.

Mentors must be able to commit to one year, or 2 semesters, of mentoring once trained. 




Mentors meet with their assigned mentee on a weekly basis, for hour-long sessions. 

All mentors submit an activity log with 24 hours of each session.




If a mentee is released during a mentors' contract, sessions will continue in the community.


When possible, these sessions are in person. In other cases, these sessions may be over phone or virtual meeting platforms. 


“HOPE helps you to see the brighter side of things.  They give you hope.  They show you all the possibilities and opportunities you have instead of letting you give up.  They've made it fun while being able to learn at the same time.” 


“It built my self-esteem and confidence and my hope for the future that I could be a better person.”

"A lot of people don't have someone to come in and just talk to them and hear them. So yeah, it's good to have that here."



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“We had a great discussion on why his old life doesn’t reflect who he is and who he wants to be, and how changing the thought processes he uses to evaluate himself and others is a great step in the right direction.  He also told me that he was proud of the “baby steps” he’s been taking to improve upon his mental health, which is something that he didn’t believe in before.” 


“He did not know that with a GED [General Education Degree] he could still go to college.  After I told him he could, he told me of a couple of careers he wants to do.  He ended up smiling and wrote them down as a long-term goal, even though he does not know which one he is interested in more.”

"I am proud to tell anyone that I talk to that I am involved in HOPE. I, myself, have always planned to go to medical school, but after getting involved in HOPE, I am now planning on getting a masters in social work and then plan on applying to law school. I hope to become involved in the criminal justice by being a mentor, mediator, and an individual that can be an advocate for striving young adults that may have a past but want to overcome that past and be successful."




Every mentoring session is different. The activities a mentor does will depend on their individual mentee - their age, education and employment experience, goals for the future, interests and personality, and emotional needs that day. 

Some days, mentees may be focused and eager, and the session might produce a lot of tangible work. Other days, a mentee might be distracted by challenges they've experienced during the week. A session on that day might primarily involve conversation about what's been going on, with the mentor providing emotional support and encouragement, and helping their mentee develop a plan of action. 

HOPE Mentoring is focused on employment (as suggested by our name, Helping Offenders Prosper through Employment). That said, employment will look very different for each mentee. What a student needs to be prepared for employment will vary just as much.


Sometimes a mentor will find themselves preparing activities more directly related to employment, like mock interviews, creating resumes, or completing job applications. Other times they will be addressing the development of soft skills like respect, goal-setting, and punctuality, which are just as critical in the work place. 

Ultimately, HOPE asks that mentors are committed, patient, consistent, and positive. If a mentor shows up each week with a smile on their face, they have done their job. When a mentor is able to work through employment-related activities in a session with their mentee - terrific! However, if a mentee is in a place where they simply need to talk, or even sit quietly in the company of their trusted mentor, HOPE considers that session equally a success. 

Though each session is different, below are a few examples of what a typical session might look like. 


Catch up on the past week. What's gone well? What's been a challenge?


Read a poem from a formerly incarcerated student and discuss what can be learned from it. 


Look at a job posting for a few restaurants in your mentee's local community. Discuss what that job would entail and work through some interview questions they might encounter when applying for the job.


Wrap up with journaling about the session's activity and goals for the upcoming week.


Play an ice breaker game to get to know each other better and warm up. 


Discuss your mentee's plans for education, employment, and post-release. 


Work on developing a SMART goal to help your mentee break down the steps needed to reach their employment goals.


Work through a Sodoku or work puzzle together. 


Review the journal entry from the previous week to refresh on where you left off.


Have a discussion about respect; how it looks at work, in the correctional facility, with a friend. 


Compare costs of living in different cities of interest and expected salaries in those cities for jobs your mentee is interested in having when released or as an adult.


Create a budget based on the salaries and costs of living in a chose city. 


Play a card game to celebrate a session of hard work.

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