Anna Blount came to UGA as a first-generation college student with her career already mapped out: She was going to become a veterinarian.
But while juggling classes and working at a local vet’s office, Blount also volunteered at a church, working with underprivileged children. Through this volunteering, she ended up fostering a child—unexpectedly—and that decision set her on a new course.
“I got a glimpse of how the system worked and how difficult it was for that young person to navigate all the formalities,” Blount recalls. “It was overwhelming, and I wondered how common this experience was for other kids.”
Blount BS ’05 is the founder and executive director of Team Up Mentoring, a Monroe-based case management and mentoring nonprofit that serves children and families who have dealt with traumatic experiences. These services for children are typically short-term, but children who have faced trauma need continual support. Blount realized this was a gap she could fill.
“I felt a sense of calling to do more,” says Blount, who founded Team Up Mentoring just one year after she graduated from UGA. “It was like I was in the right place at the right time to do something. I saw this was a need, and I couldn’t walk away.”
Blount’s work has been noticed.
At the end of last year, she was named a L’Oréal Paris “Women of Worth for 2022.” Out of thousands of nominations, Blount was one of 10 women to receive a $20,000 grant and a trip to Los Angeles to meet and network with the other honorees.
“When I got the email, I thought it was junk mail,” laughs Blount, who was secretly nominated by a co-worker. “Being chosen was confirmation that the work we’re doing is important and people outside of the local community see the value of what Team Up Mentoring is providing and, indirectly, see the value of the families we work with.”
Team Up Mentoring will use the award money from L’Oréal to assess its programming—with the hope of expanding beyond its base in Walton and Barrow counties.
The journey to get the nonprofit to where it is today, with eight staff serving 135 clients, was challenging. Blount, working solo and part-time while she taught sixth through 12th grade, struggled for years to find the funds to help Team Up blossom. In 2019, the organization finally had a dedicated space, so Blount could stop working from her apartment.
Children enter the program as early as 3 years old and can participate until they’re 21. The organization’s year-round youth programming is entirely dependent upon children’s individual needs, backed by research of the best ways to overcome traumatic childhood experiences, and focused on the power of long-term relationships. They offer summer camps and field trips, counseling, food, transportation, and scholarships for autistic children.
Team Up’s family services department works with caregivers to outline steps toward achieving goals like becoming a first-time homeowner. “We try to foster generational change for families affected by trauma. They’re dealing with a lot of obstacles to success however they define it,” Blount says. “Something special happens when you’re working with both generations at the same time. You all become a team.”
The depth and breadth of this relationship builds trust among the children, their caregivers, and the staff at Team Up Mentoring. That trust is the first step toward healing.
“I tell my staff all the time that the ultimate win is when people leave us feeling seen for who they are,” Blount says. “The greatest impact we’re making is that people leave us feeling seen, known, and loved.”