Puerto Rico Youth at Risk, Inc. (PRYAR) is a one-on-one mentoring program; the only in Puerto Rico. Thousands of volunteer service hours, youth and their families lives transformed by the power of loving and caring volunteers, at-risk youth converted in to youth in control of their lives and serving others, adult volunteers’ lives enriched by the opportunity to serve and grow – this is what PRYAR is all about.
PRYAR is a nonprofit organization. It delivers intensive programs through committed volunteers since 1996. Participants are young people at risk of school dropout, teen pregnancy, suicide, drug and alcohol abuse and delinquency. Youth reached realize that they have choices in how their lives will turn out. They move from being at risk towards taking socially productive risks.
PRYAR serves the greater San Juan Metropolitan area. Almost four million live in Puerto Rico. San Juan has about 25% of the population. More than 1/3 of San Juan’s population is youth. In 1997, 60% of all the people murdered were between 16 and 29 years old. In this same year, 40% of those detained for murder charges were under 18. Most of the violent crimes are drug-related and three out of four youth between the ages of 15 and 21 have some kind of connection to drug activity. Furthermore, one of every two students does not graduate from high school. Half of these youth will be single parent within two years after leaving school.
PRYAR’s programs are designed to reach youth before it is too late. Participants establish a caring and supportive relationship with an adult mentor, continue in traditional or alternative school committed to accomplish a degree, improve school assistance and reduce misconduct and violent incidents, and learn pro-social skills. They also reduce drug, alcohol, smoking, and unsafe sex practices, improve relationships with family, school, and community members, participate in work experiences, and develop responsible parenting skills.
At the core of the program is the creation of the possibility for volunteer services through a variety of means. The first method is one-to-one mentoring of an adult volunteer with a student from an at-risk community. Current mentors represent a myriad of professions and occupations and range in age from 18 to 65. Throughout the mentoring experience they receive 60 hours of intensive pre-service training, in-service training, support and care. Each mentor delivers 250 to 300 hours of service to his/her mentee. Volunteers serve in a variety of activities including logistics, mentor recruitment, fundraising, and others.
Graduates and former mentors participate in an advanced leadership program called “Orden del Manicato” (Taino term for ‘effort’). At this program, participants gain pride in their Taino, African, and Hispanic heritage, develop and/or strengthen leadership skills, become staff volunteers in future programs, and create inter-connectedness between adults and youth, and create friendship bonds between youth from communities that are in conflict with each other.