During my 15 years in service to youth development, I had the opportunity to work with teenagers in various capacities as a local youth pastor. I loved creating events for students to attend and to invite their friends, being a positive adult role model in their lives, and creating opportunities for them to grow emotionally and spiritually.

Throughout those years, I noticed that schools have a wonderful opportunity to impact the life of a teen. Students spend most of their time on a school campus. Many of their extracurricular activities are also extensions of their lives on campus.

Schools address the academic needs of students, but at the same time they have to consider all other areas of a student’s life – their concerns, fears, and pains that are with them every day. Schools provide a different and unique setting to speak truth and to provide guidance in the personal development of each student in addition to encouraging their academic growth.

Because of this reality, I started Community First Initiative (now Youth Mentoring Initiative – YMI) in April of 2008. My desire is to bring the community around the school systems and to create specialized mentor programs to meet the critical needs of their students. With limited budgets and small counseling departments, schools need volunteers from the community to get involved and to recognize the role they can play in the growth and development of students. My faith has compelled me to serve, and I want to serve the schools in whatever way I can. My passion is to bring the community together to make a difference in the next generation.

– Darren Heil, Founder/Director of Community Engagement