Staff Spotlight: Alli Doughton

Bench Mark Program mentor, Alli Doughton, spends her days helping people as an Occupational Therapist, but that’s not where her generosity and compassion stops. For the last year and a half, she has come to the Bench Mark gym consistently every week to connect with our students while working out. She has made it her mission to empower the young women at Bench Mark and we know they appreciate her upbeat attitude and friendly personality that she brings to the gym every day! 

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1.     What has been your favorite thing about being a part of Bench Mark Program?

I appreciate the community that is Bench Mark. On any given night I know that I will have the space and time to not only workout but also to connect with students and mentors through interactions that are authentic because of the comfortable environment of the gym.

2.    What do you hope the students can learn from you and your experiences?

I hope to impart the value of self-efficacy especially to the young women who come for a workout. After gaining experience in one skill that used to be unfamiliar or difficult, such as completing a push-up, squat or maybe even a pullup, that confidence can spread to other areas of life. I continue to struggle with self-esteem and I wish to empower each young woman to find their own confidence and maintain that so they will not hesitate to try new things throughout the course of their lives. 

3.    Why do you think Bench Mark is so important to the Lancaster community?

Bench Mark is valuable for many reasons, one being the physical safe haven or escape that it provides to so many students and mentors. I have heard comments from students who were going through an especially difficult time in their home or school life, but I would have never suspected it because of how relaxed and comfortable they were when they came to the gym. Bench Mark serves multiple purposes, including a space to workout frustrations and learn new weightlifting techniques, catch up on homework, write resumes and fill out job applications, as well as a place to receive advice or find a listening ear when a workout just isn't enough. To have a reliable place that offers all of those crucial pieces for students is remarkable and should be treasured for what it offers to the students of Lancaster County. 

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Okay, now for some real thought-provoking questions…

1.    If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Ice cream! Mint chocolate chip or anything chocolate for sure.

2.    What is your spirit animal and why?

I love elephants for their calm nature combined with their overpowering strength that is only used when absolutely necessary. I don't know that I am like an elephant, but I have always loved their essence. 

3.    If you had to choose just one decade to listen to music from for the rest of your life what would it be?

This would be hard because I get tired of listening to the same music over and over but I think I would go with the 80s.

4.    What is one goal you would like to accomplish in your lifetime?

Running a half marathon is on my bucket list and I recently signed up for one so we will see how that goes! I'd also love to learn how to surf, but that one may be much further down the road. 

 

 

Staff Spotlight: Chris Orantes

Chris Orantes has been a dedicated member of the Bench Mark team since 2017. His title is Open Gym Program Director, and he excels as a mentor to our students whose passion for fitness is evident in his consistent, unwavering presence in the gym. Everyone at Bench Mark can lean on Chris for support, guidance, and encouragement. Learn more about Chris and what he loves about being a part of the Bench Mark Program team.

What has been your favorite thing about being a part of Bench Mark Program?

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One of the first things I sensed from the moment I first walked into Bench Mark was the culture/environment that’s palpable when you’re down there. It was a cool experience and it has been even better now that I’ve been a part of it.

What do you hope the students can learn from you and your experiences?

I think, over the years, I’ve learned how powerful the tool of perspective can be. Whether that be how you, personally, view the world or walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. I hope that I’m able to show our students how useful that skill can be in life.

Why do you think Bench Mark is so important to the Lancaster community?

I remember how important and supportive my coaches were to me growing up. I believe Bench Mark offers the same kind of support that I received when I needed guidance and mentoring as a teenager trying to make sense of it all while also giving me a sense of purpose.

What is your favorite sports team?

I usually say anything New York so: Giants, Yankees, Knicks, Rangers.

What are some of your hobbies / things you do in your free time?

When I have time, I’m actually a big movie guy. I enjoy going to the movie theater and checking out what’s new and kind of turning my brain off for a couple of hours.

If you were a superhero, what would you want your super power to be and what would you do with it?

It’s a close one between super intelligence and super strength but I think I’ll go with strength. I think there’s a lot you could do with it especially at the gym.

If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

If I’m allowed to be unhealthy without consequences, my favorite food is this Salvadoran dish called Pupusas which are essentially tortillas stuffed with pork and cheese. I would eat them every day if I could, so it’s probably a good thing that my mom only makes them from time to time.

What is your spirit animal and why?

This is a good one. Probably a bear I would say. Aside from being big, bears are pretty resourceful and agile despite their size. I like to think I am too, sometimes.

What is one goal you would like to accomplish in your lifetime?

I’m just hoping that at the end of it, I’m remembered for never being too busy or too important to help someone who needed it. Hopefully I can leave the world a little better of a place than when I came in.



            



Staff Spotlight: Jeremy Geist

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Jeremy Geist has been an incredibly important part of the Bench Mark Program team for over two years. Like many of our dedicated team members he has several roles including: mentor, Facility Manager and most recently, Strength Coach at our new location in Columbia, Pa. We asked Jeremy to answer some questions so that we could learn a little bit more about him and his personal investment in Bench Mark.

1.       What has been your favorite thing about being a part of Bench Mark Program?

Building friendships with students and mentors at the gym

2.       What do you hope the students can learn from you and your experiences?

There’s hope for making it past the hardships of your younger years. I had my own struggles that I hope I can give advice on to the younger generation.

3.       Why do you think Bench Mark is so important to the Lancaster community?

A lot of these kids were not afforded the same luxuries that even the student one row over in class was given, but Bench Mark can help teach them that with a positive attitude and an ability to build confidence through physical fitness, anything can be overcome.

Tell us a little about yourself outside of Bench Mark…

1.       What is your favorite sports team?

The Dallas Cowboys

2.       If you were a superhero, what would you want your super power to be?

Teleportation

3.       If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Sushi

4. What is your spirit animal?

An otter because if you watch otters they always seems to be having fun doing random stuff which represents my inner child, but they're also fiercely loyal to their companions.

5. If you had to describe yourself in 3 words, what would they be?

Passionate, caring, determined



3rd Annual Lancaster County Crime Prevention Summit - 2019

A room full of police officers, legal experts, parole officers, counselors, teachers, and other professionals all in attendance to learn how to be more effective in their profession from Bench Mark Program students.

We were excited to participate in Lancaster County’s 3rd Annual Crime Prevention Summit at the IU13 on March 29, 2019. We had seven students on our panel from three different school districts all focusing on “Equipping All of Us to Prevent Crime.” While its no easy task to articulate your thoughts and feelings in front of a large group of strangers, our students did an amazing job. The panel took questions from the audience for an hour in a large group session of about 100 people. They exceeded our expectations and thoroughly impressed the audience with their thoughtful and educated responses to controversial or difficult-to-discuss topics like school safety, drugs, interacting with law enforcement, and more.

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On questions of school safety and whether or not students feel safe in their respective schools, the consensus was unfortunately “no.” Our students feel that many times serious incidents happening on school property are  “pushed under the rug” and students are often only given vague details about what happened. Lack of clear information allows rumors to run wild throughout the student body and makes everyone unsure of the status of the situation. Our panel called for more communication between teachers, administration and students when dealing with incidents on and off campus.

Recalling a fight that happened recently outside of his classroom, Gavin believed better communication and trust between students and teachers could have prevented the altercation altogether. “That could have been me. It’s not a safe environment when you have all this going on and not enough interaction with teachers and students. If the teachers and students aren’t talking, how are we supposed to know the things that are going to happen. People knew that (the fight) was going to happen, it might have been prevented.”

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A  little interaction can go a long way. Lancaster Mennonite student, Sarelis pointed out that it doesn’t need to be a long discussion between students and adults to make an impact “What I would like to see is officers, or people that have that type of status, interacting more with youth…because how are we supposed to trust you if we never talk. Just say, ‘hi, how was your day?’ or a wave, just acknowledging that I’m there.”

Our panel told the audience that an appreciation for this type of  interaction is what makes them feel so comfortable at Bench Mark Program.

School District of Lancaster student, Enzo, heard about Bench Mark through a friend: “He told me, it’s a really great place, a small community to get your mind off of some things.  I appreciate Will and his wife Karla for everything, I appreciate all the instructors, all my friends I’ve made there, because I consider them family and I really appreciate all the time and dedication they put into everybody.

Phoenix Academy student, Mila, received applause from the audience when she revealed how she’s gone from failing grades to all A’s (and one B) when she stopped skipping school and started attending Bench Mark. Now she’s passing what she learned onto others: “I tell them: skipping is not where you want to go, it's not the right path. I tell them, if you think you can just skip and get your diploma and get on that stage, it’s not that simple. You got work to do. I feel like people who talk from experience it brings more light and detail to them because you want them to choose right.”

Sarelis finished her discussion on the panel with some advice for adults trying to interact more with youth. She says this is something that all the mentors at Bench Mark do, she explains “They say ‘I’m not going to pretend like I know what you’re going through’ because we grew up in two completely different environments so I guess just having a sense of like ‘I don’t know what you’re going through, but I want to understand’ and not pushing that young person to tell you exactly what’s going on and just say ‘I’m here if you want to talk’.”

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A crime prevention summit can’t be complete without the voices of the youth who live in crime-stricken neighborhoods. They grow up with it, they learn how to cope with it, and they have some of the most valuable insights into how we can prevent it for future generations. Maybe it’s simpler than we think? Maybe interacting a little more purposefully with youth in our communities is the key to lifting an entire community out of crime.

Thank you to the Lancaster County Crime Prevention Task Force for having us, thank you to the audience for listening and asking thoughtful/interesting questions, and of course, our greatest thank you to the Bench Mark Students that participated and shared their knowledge of and insights into our community. You continue to make us proud every day!

An Introduction to Bench Mark Program

Welcome to the Bench Mark Program blog! At Bench Mark, we build connection and trust with every student who walks through our door. We drive progress in each student’s life by using exercise, academic support and career counseling to propel them toward a successful future. This means every month, we’re supporting our students as they hit their goals in the gym and the classroom, volunteer in their community, tour job sites, and apply for jobs and colleges. Our goal is for this blog to give you an inside look at these events and how they impact our students. 

Bench Mark Program is a non-profit that operates through grants and donations, with a talented team of volunteer mentors who  are dedicated to our students and the community. To learn more about Bench Mark Program and our unique approach to mentoring, visit our website

In the past year a lot of exciting things have happened for us. We raised more than ever before at Lancaster’s Extraordinary Give ($27,692.55), we launched a new intensive program called Strength-Based Skill Building (SBSB) in collaboration with Lancaster County Juvenile Probation and we’ve opened our second branch in Columbia in January. 

Next month, we’ll take a look at the Third Annual Crime Prevention Summit. We’re proud that Bench Mark Program students will be leading a panel called “Equipping All of Us to Prevent Crime” during the summit and we hope to attend other discussions and panels as well. 

Thank you for joining us on our journey as our students #becomebenchmark. 

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