New Northwest Colorado Youth Mentoring Program kicks-off in Craig | CraigDailyPress.com

New Northwest Colorado Youth Mentoring Program kicks-off in Craig

Sasha Nelson/For the Craig Daily Press

Steven Walls of A&S Counseling listens to Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club Dana Duran, A&S employee April Camp and Tara Wojakiewicz. Wells looks to create a list of resources and strengths of youth services in Moffat County.

The first meeting of the new Northwest Colorado Youth Mentoring Project was held at The Memorial Hospital on Tuesday. The group was born out of the sadness and frustration professional counselor Steven Walls feels every time he has to turn away a young person in need of mentoring.

"I see so many children in our area that are in need of our support as it relates not only to mentoring but also, for example teaching a child how to fish or hunt, help them go fishing or hunting, or connect them with a whole host of other activities available for people to do in this area that are healthy such as baking, crocheting, fly tying, hiking, biking and horseback riding," Walls said. "I decided to create something for our youth that will be lasting and that can aid them by connecting them to local positive resources, local healthy activities, and provide them with a positive person in their life that can help mentor them."

More than 50 people replied to Walls' request for interest and support. About a dozen people representing youth services, area nonprofits, church groups, educators and concerned residents attended the meeting in person to rate the community on mentoring and resources for our youths, discuss community strengths relating to mentoring and resources, the areas needed for improvement and the actions steps that can be taken to be successful.

Participants rated the strength of the community and willingness for people to get involved very highly.

"We have a lot of things available," rancher Tom Gray said. "It seems that we have more group and small group opportunities and not as many activities involving one on one time. Maybe what's missing is a more personal commitment."

Moffat County Partners formerly provided a mentoring program for area youth.

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"When we lost local funding, we lost state and federal financial support. We also faced hurdles caused by the burden of paperwork needed for liability insurance and to ensure proper background checks," said Tara Wojakiewicz, who currently works with trouble youths once they enter the court system.

"Sometimes it would take three to six months to clear an adult partner," she said.

Mentoring may be as simple as connecting kids to opportunities already available in the community and yet it can have a profound impact on a child's success.

"I recall one teacher who pulled me aside and set me on a better path," community member Sheila Davis said.

"I remember taking high risk children to the Little Snake Museum," counselor Joanne Snow said. "It wasn't a trip to Disneyland, but we take simple opportunities for granted when they can mean so much to youth who are poor or lack functional families."

It's a growing process to get the program going.

"Our next step is further research of formal groups like Big Bother, Big Sister and to gain a better understanding of less formal," Walls said.

Moderate- to high-risk children will be the initial focus.

"We'd like to have a program up and running within the next few months," said Spencer Wayman, a counselor at A&S Counseling.

"I am hopeful that through the love and support of this community we can find a way to help the many Craig youth who are in need in these areas," Walls said.

The group will hold another meeting at end of the month. Anyone who has ideas, is interested in becoming a mentor, or is willing to volunteer help or support may call Steven Walls at A&S Counseling, 970-824-5552.