Mentoring program provides guidance for children
Despite needing more volunteers, local youth program makes beneficial changes for Craig children
November 25, 2001
By JOSH NICHOLS
Daily Press writer
In its third year of existence, the Moffat County Mentoring Program has made a difference in many young people’s lives, but there is still a need for more adult volunteers.
“Mentoring is not a big metal ball attached to your ankle,” said Debi Landoll, director of Moffat County’s mentoring program. “Mentoring is simply a commitment to be there.”
Landoll said many people are scared to volunteer for the child mentoring program because of a fear that it will be too big of a time commitment.
However, when people volunteer they are only giving three hours of their week to spend with a child, she said.
And the impact a mentor makes in a child’s life can add up to a lot more than three hours a week.
“I describe being a mentor as being an adult friend,” said Tara Jenrich, case manager for Moffat County’s mentoring program. “As many of us know, it is tough to talk to parents about certain things. A mentor needs to be able to listen because that is what most of our kids need.”
If an adult wants to be a volunteer, they must first go through a screening process which includes a background check. Four references are also sought from someone volunteering.
After the background checks are completed, they must go through a two-hour interview.
Once the interview is completed, they are given a list of the biographies of children who are available for mentoring.
Children who are on the list have been referred to the program by schools, police officers, social services and other organizations connected with children.
Most children on the list are there simply because they would benefit from an additional three hours of attention from an adult every week, Landoll said.
“There’s a perception that we work with criminal minds,” Landoll said. “But a majority of the children referred to the program come from one parent, or low-income families.”
Landoll said she remembers a single father who once came to the office with tears in his eyes.
In order to raise his three children by himself, he was being forced to work two jobs.
According to Landoll, the father was thrilled that his son now had someone who had the time to take him fishing.
Landoll and Jenrich listed several examples of the benefits of the program.
One student who was struggling with grades prior to being matched with a mentor is now an honor role student, Landoll said.
Another shy little girl, who is still new to the program, would not even make eye contact with Jenrich.
After working with a mentor for a year, Jenrich said the girl is now sitting up straight and giving full-sentence answers to her questions.
“There is proof that the program, structure and plan works,” Jenrich said. “It’s incredible. It just works.”
Relationships develop between mentors and children.
“We see a lot of growth with the partnerships,” she said. “Many of them have continued on into a second year of mentoring.”
Feedback on the program has been positive.
“We’ve received a huge response from the schools,” she said. “A counselor called and said a teacher saw a difference in a student after one week of mentoring.”
In order to have a successful mentoring program, Jenrich said mentors and children are carefully matched, and not left to fend for themselves once they are matched.
“We want them to have common interests so that they can bond,” Landoll said. “We don’t want to hook up a kid who likes to play video games with a man who likes to be outside.”
Jenrich also maintains weekly contact with both members in the partnership for the first three months.
She offers them guidance, and provides them with ideas if they’re not sure what they are going to do during their time together.
After three months, a meeting is held with the child and the mentor to check on their progress and set new goals for the rest of the year, Jenrich said.
She said the already-formed partnerships are going well, but there is a need for more adult volunteers.
Over the three years the program has been in existence, Jenrich said they have held an average of 18 partnerships.
Currently they have 12, with 37 children remaining on a waiting list.
“We’re in great need of adult volunteers right now,” she said. “Volunteers are what make this program go.”
They ask that volunteers are at least 21 years of age.
“People in wheelchairs are eligible,” Landoll said. “A lot of children like the grandparent-type of mentor because they don’t have extended family who live near.”
Despite a current need for more volunteers, Landoll said community support thus far has been wonderful.
“We have had huge community support,” Landoll said. “The schools have been wonderful. They have even allowed mentors to come sit in at school parent/teacher conferences.”
Jenrich also gets excited when she successfully matches a child and an adult.
“This program works and it makes a difference,” she said. “If you had a million dollars and gave it to somebody, it wouldn’t bring near as much pleasure as matching a child and a mentor.”
For more information on the mentoring program, call Debi Landoll at 826-4261.