Camelot Academy of Escambia’s Julia Venturi: Mentoring Young Women ‘Needs to be Done’
If anyone asks Julia Venturi why she mentors at risk young women, her answer is simple, straight forward and unapologetic.
“It needs to be done.”
Venturi, a woman of deep social conscience and conviction, is the social services coordinator at Camelot Academy of Escambia. Her daily duties in this position include administering medication to students and records retention. She has also taken over children’s studies; which determines why children miss school and ways to remedy those individual situations. Venturi has also served as a volunteer mentor and life coach for Project Connect since 2014 and during that time has worked with 10 young ladies at the program.
Project Connect provides transitional services in Florida’s northern regions for youth moving from residential commitment programs back into their communities. Although she remains busy with her full time job at Camelot Academy and pursuing a master’s degree in social work at Florida State University, she always finds the time for the young ladies at Project Connect and always works to make them feel special.
“Some of the kids are probation students. All of them are affected by some crisis in their lives,” she said, in speaking of her mentoring work. “It’s not always the same students and the same population. The critical aspect for them is to know they have someone on their side. This is an anchor for them and it works both ways. Working with them helps me relate to the students at Camelot Academy as well.”
Venturi said that the young women she mentors are often referred to Project Connect through the state juvenile justice system; same as with boys. They exhibit the same types of behavior, indulging in drugs and alcohol abuse, fighting and she added that there’s more trouble with the girls than with the boys.
“For many of them, this is the first time they’ve had some caring structure in their lives. Many of them have a lot of impulse control issues but this is necessary work. It’s God’s work to help these young women see that their lives have value. They can have a secure future.”
Part of the mentoring services involves community action meetings which happen at least two or three times a week. The activities, which fulfill the court mandated sanctions of the participants, include various forms of community service, volunteer work and essays for the courts. Of course, the participants receive assistance with their homework.
“Ms. Venturi mentors girls from all walks of life including a young mother, those with family struggles, and most recently two sisters that were referred to the program for mentoring,” said Camelot Academy of Escambia’s executive director, Andrew Maxwell. “Ms. Venturi has made a tremendous impact on the girls at Project Connect and works hard, without hesitation or judgement, to meet each of the girls’ individual needs. She is a one-of-a-kind volunteer who is dedicated to making a difference in a young person’s life.”
Venturi, who is active in the Marcus Pointe Baptist Church, said the work she does is not something she does for recognition. “These kids need stability in their lives. When they start to recognize their lives have worth, that they can become doctors, lawyers and community leaders, it’s so worthwhile. But we have to get them while they’re young. Before they go too far.”