Partners for life

A Moffat County organization builds generational bridges between youth and adults

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When Robin Shiffbauer looked around Craig six years ago she noticed something. She saw children in the town with busy parents and, at the same time, she knew of adults who had some time on their hands. She put the two together and envisioned that those children and adults could be connected in a mentoring program.

Now, every week Schiffbauer picks up the phone with anxious anticipation to call her junior partner in the Moffat County Partners mentoring program and makes plans for their once-a-week time together.

"I knew there were people in Craig whose children had grown up or people who simply love children," she said. "Friends are a good thing for adults and children and I hoped to get something started in Craig."

After two years of getting the ball rolling, Moffat County Partners was officially started.

This month is National Mentoring Month recognizing local mentoring programs like Partners.

"The National Mentoring Month was established to heighten awareness of mentoring around the country," said Partners Executive Director Tara Jenrich. "We have had tremendous community support but there are always children out there who need a friend."

The National Mentoring Month is a program backed by President George Bush, political leaders, athletes and volunteers who are participating in the national service campaign to recruit adult mentors for young people.

The goals of the month are to raise awareness about mentoring in its various forms, recruit individuals to mentor and promote rapid growth of mentoring by recruiting organizations to encourage their constituents in mentoring.

For its part in raising awareness, Moffat County Partners held a "Silly Supper" Sunday at the high school.

According to Jenrich, events like the Silly Supper and increased mentoring interest in Craig are helping realize Shiffbauer's vision.

The director said a majority of the results from feedback surveys about the mentoring process has been positive. The junior partners have shown more loyalty to school, improvements in school performance and increases in self-esteem.

Of the many samples of feedback Jenrich read, she thought one quote defined Partners' purpose. It read, "(my mentor) has been there for me no matter if I'm good or bad."

Many different criteria are used to select the children in the program. Jenrich said she has children referred to her that have gone through a divorce or death in the family, have been performing poorly at school or have an incarcerated sibling or parent. But the key word for being a junior partner is "referred."

"Children can't just come and sign up for the program," she said. "They have to be referred to me by school counselors or other officials."

As for senior partners, there is some paper work to fill out as part of a screening process and then they are paired with a junior partner who the case managers believe will fit well with the adults.

The senior partners are asked to spend three hours a week with their new friend and to do it for a year.

"We have a lot of mentors who stay on for longer than the required year," Jenrich said. "I understand that three hours may seem like a lot, but there are other options for those who are really busy."

The other option is volunteering to assist with the Nexus program, which is for the children who are in Partners but have not been matched with a mentor yet. Nexus has a monthly activity that one can help with, without having to commit three hours a week.

For Schiffbauer, who is now the vice chairman of the board of directors for Partners, the three hours are rarely enough.

"We've done such a wide range of things, from ice skating to bowling to just sitting down for hot chocolate," she said.

"But I think the best part is just talking about whatever she wants to talk about and just being her friend," which is exactly what she hoped for six years ago.


David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or dpressgrove@craigdailypress.com.

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