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Difference Maker: Jo Pennock

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

Some people seem to bring light wherever they go. They actively seek ways to make a difference and do not hesitate to do what it takes to make someone else's future a bit brighter. Jo Pennock is that light and she brings humility, empathy, and passion to all that she does.

After Jo graduated with a degree in Sociology from Smith College, she realized that she was tired of learning only about the world's problems, rather than working to figure out solutions to those issues. Naturally, she set out to solve all of these problems with her relentless determination. Recognizing that there are too many problems to solve for just one person, she decided to focus her attention and efforts on working with youth in need. Jo acknowledges that, while it may sound cliché, the "children are the future." That is why her role with Bright Future Foundation is a dream come true and has allowed her to pursue her passions. Now, she has the opportunity to help and positively impact the lives of the youth in our community in a meaningful and mutually beneficial way.

Jo is the Youth Advocacy Manager at Bright Future Foundation. Her role involves going into schools and teaching about healthy relationships. An extremely significant part of a child's life are the relationships that they form. A healthy relationship can help youth feel secure and supported, whereas unhealthy relationships can have long-term adverse effects. The prevention work done in this area is vital in assisting young people in identifying unhealthy behaviors and maintaining healthy boundaries.

Jo also coordinates the Buddy Mentor program within the organization. Buddy Mentors seeks to inspire and support youth. Adult volunteers commit time to regularly meeting with a local youth who could benefit from a positive role model. In addition to offering support, encouragement, and guidance, the mentor also acts as a source of support for the child. Mentors encourage youth to dream big and grow stronger by spending time with them, learning new things, and enjoying the friendships created.

A Junior and Senior buddy are matched for a minimum of one year and spend several hours a month with one another. Many Junior and Senior buddies remain connected for many years! Jo is responsible for identifying safe and approved adults from the community who then get matched with at-risk youth that have been referred by their schools, counselors, or anyone who believes they may benefit from this program. Buddy Mentors is based on the Big Brother/Big Sisters model and has similar results in increasing confidence and self-esteem and decreasing risky behaviors in the youth involved.

Jo's favorite experience of the job so far has been seeing the joy on the faces of a Junior Buddy once they had been matched with their Senior Buddy. When that time comes, they are very excited! These youth have had a more difficult life than most of us would understand, and just introducing them to a safe and reliable person is a huge success which can help to shape their future in a more positive way.

While Jo has lived in many places, including some time abroad, she has always been drawn to the mountains. Not only is Vail Valley a picturesque place to live, it also brings her closer to her family. Jo appreciates the community's efforts in bettering the health and well-being of our youth. Jo believes that every day is a new opportunity and continues to learn through curiosity. It is people like Jo who make the world a better place. We thank her for her passion and dedication!

If you know of a local child that would benefit from the Buddy Mentor program, please click here. If you are interested in becoming a Senior Buddy, click here.

Written by Grace Meinberg, Manager of Safe Driving Efforts with Mountain Youth,

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