Conference brings validation to Partners

National gathering shows local group is headed in right direction

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The administration of Moffat County Partners recently returned from a national conference on mentoring programs, and returned rejuvenated about the mission, structure and style of its youth mentoring programs.

Moffat County Partners Executive Director Debi Landoll and case manager Tara Jenrich took part in the National Mentoring Summit in Denver on May 8 through May 10.

The event was sponsored by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, which is part of the U.S. Department of Justice, the National Mentoring Center, and Colorado Mentoring, which is a program of the Governor's Commission on National and Community Service. These types of summits are annual events, but the event's location in Denver allowed for Landoll and Jenrich to participate.

"It was kind of a special event for us special in that it was in Colorado this year and that gave us the opportunity to participate," Landoll said. "It gave us a chance to compare the things we do, and look at what is being recommended by the National Mentoring Association."

The event gave Landoll and Jenrich renewed confidence that the work Moffat County Partners is doing now is effective and successful.

"We expected when we went down to find out we had so much to learn," Landoll said. "But the results and studies on what our program already is doing shows that our outfit is top notch. That is great to know because, just like any job, you're always wondering if you're doing good work. There are different styles, techniques, approaches to a job, and it's wonderful to know our programs are right on target.

"Moffat County Partners has provided group mentoring from our inception. We have seen positive results in the youth that participate in our group programs that come from adult volunteers working with youth during alternative activities. We are glad to finally have some data to support that program component."

Partners' goal is to provide a safe and educational environment for at-risk youths through mentoring relationships, activities and group involvement. The program has operated in Craig since 1998.

According to Landoll, several different areas of mentoring programs and their administration were discussed and studied at the summit. The advanced program development included the "Strengthening Mentoring Programs" curriculum that covers mentor recruitment and screening, matching and supporting mentors and "mentees," and measuring outcomes.

The components of the summit on recruitment, stress management and creating a supportive atmosphere for both mentors and their charges were especially effective, Jenrich said.

"I think the discussions on recruitment of new volunteers to be mentors, and stress management and burnout were really valuable," Jenrich said. "Those are things we have to be able to handle."

Discussions on the daily operation of a mentoring program, and the planning, resource development, grant writing, and creating visible responsibilities of an organization where held. The summit offered ideas on marketing, developing relationship, fund-raising activities and using data for sustainability efforts, Landoll said.

"Mentoring is a hot term right now and we see those words used in connection with a lot of different programs, activities or events provided in our community but trained mentors are a program necessity," Landoll said. "There needs to be a structured, scientific-based, trained mentoring program in place. And now we know we have that.

"There is a misperception that anyone can be a mentor. But without the necessary training and structure provided by programs like Partners, these 'mentors' can end up doing much more harm than good."

Landoll said the Craig community is fortunate to have a community-based mentoring program because there are only 60 communities in the state of Colorado that currently provide mentoring programs.

For more information about Moffat County Partners, call 826-4261 or visit the office at 439 Breeze St.

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