FRIENDS FIRST Receives Federal Funding Grant from The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Pre

Updated: Nov 12, 2020


FRIENDS FIRST Receives Federal Funding from The Federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to Continue and Expand Programming

Denver, CO – (October 26, 2020), FRIENDS FIRST has been awarded $2 million, spread out over a three-year period, by The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention with a Multi-State Mentoring grant. This grant is available immediately, which allows FRIENDS FIRST to facilitate programming immediately within schools and the community. We know that there are systems, biases and even laws currently in place that have disproportionate negative impact on communities of color. Negative encounters with law enforcement and outdated practices threaten the livelihood and chances for positive future outcomes for those we serve within marginalized communities. FRIENDS FIRST is excited that Colorado has received funding from the federal office of juvenile justice and delinquency prevention in support of successful outcomes for youth served.

“This grant enables us to extend the reach of our STARS (Students Teaching About Relationships and Success) Peer Mentoring Program as well as our STARS eMentoring Program for a virtual mentoring experience,” says FRIENDS FIRST executive director Elycia Cook. “That means even as we are navigating life through this pandemic, we will be able to partner with more schools in Colorado and in other states, to facilitate mentoring virtually and promote positive social and emotional interactions during a time where it is desperately needed.

The Multi-State Mentoring grant allows us to implement the STARS Mentoring Program and the virtual STARS eMentoring Program in up to six Colorado high school and middle schools and four out-of-state programs in California, Michigan, New York and Texas. Over the next three years, the goal of this project is to effectively utilize mentoring best practices to reduce the risk of juvenile delinquency by (1) empowering youth to make positive choices regarding alcohol, tobacco and drug use, violence and gang activity (2) emphasizing bullying/cyberbullying prevention and build protective factors to assist youth in strengthening what is known as the 5 C’- character, confidence, competence, compassion and connection (3) fortifying their protective factors through positive peer relationships and increased school engagement and future orientation.

“As someone born to a teen mom and raised in an area known as the Black Bottom of Detroit and who experienced the same challenges many students still encounter today, I am so proud that as part of this grant.” says Cook. “We not only get to serve youth in Colorado, we also have the opportunity to pay it forward in my hometown as FRIENDS FIRST will continue to partner with Detroit Cares Mentoring as an affiliate of the National Cares Mentoring Movement (NCIMM).”

This grant provides much-needed financial assistance to continue the work of mentoring student but as the needs for positive social and emotional interactions grow for our teens, school and communities, so does the need for even more funding. One of the biggest obstacles facing teens today is how to have real, deep meaningful connections with others in a digital world and how to positively cope with stressors and influences. We know that students in our programs are more engaged in school, have a higher level of confidence and are less likely to participate in unsafe or unhealthy activities. We also understand that while schools are going virtual, there will be gaps in fulfilling these opportunities for connection and interaction. Continuing to donate to FRIENDS FIRST, allows us to keep up with the growing needs of our teens and schools.

About STARS Mentoring Program

The STARS Mentoring Program is a classroom-based, peer-to-peer mentoring program that engages and supports students to make positive life choices and build healthy relationships. STARS provides students the opportunity to discover themselves and build upon their skill set through our three core elements of self-awareness, healthy decision-making and MentorLife®, which means to always invest in someone and always have someone investing in you. STARS mentors receive training and mentoring from their program coordinator, then they in turn are paired with no more than four mentees where they lead activities and opportunities for discussion. Through the program, students are able to strengthen their leadership abilities, discover and practice positive social and emotional skills around mental health, healthy relationships and decision-making, gain confidence and feel valued.


FRIENDS FIRST educates and mentors teens to make positive life choices and develop healthy relationships through various teen and community programs offered locally, virtually and throughout the U.S. For more information on FRIENDS FIRST and its programs, visit


If you would like more information about this topic, please call Elycia Cook, President & CEO at 720.981.9193 or email

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