Calling all mentors: VC School District is recruiting

By Carla Kelly, Valley City Times-Record Staff Writer

Monday, October 10, 2005 3:40 PM CDT







A grownup and child reading together, playing checkers, doing homework, taking a walk, cooking: For some kids, this is business as usual; for others, it’s a rare treat.

Service Learning and Asset Mentoring Coordinator Joy Mertes would like to make that first scenario one within the reach of more students in the Valley City School District.

To do that, she needs more adult mentors. “We want people willing to give of their time unselfishly,” she said.

Joy is new to the mentoring program and to Valley City. A 2003 secondary English education graduate from Dickinson State University, she claims Omaha, Neb., as home. Because her father was in the Air Force, she has lived near air bases in Minot and Grand Forks.

She was living in Marion and heard about the job opening, applied, and was hired, replacing Sonia Lewis, who accepted another job in Jamestown.

The asset mentoring program has been in place for six years here, pairing children between first and eighth grades with adults who help provide structure and friendship.

“This is for kids who need someone to talk to about school stress, or maybe home stress,” she said. “They need to trust this person.”

There are two mentoring levels, according to Joy. School-based mentoring takes one half hour a week, before or after school. At the elementary schools, mentor and mentee get together for homework help, to read, or play games.

“I have activity boxes for the school-based mentoring,” Joy said. The boxes contain games, coloring books, crayons, books for different age levels.

The community-based mentoring allows children in the program to leave after school with the mentor for movies, cooking a meal, playing basketball, doing a service project: anything that’s fun and helps build relationships.

“Both programs are for kids who need a little extra attention, and a boost in confidence and self-esteem,” Joy explained.

Potential mentors - who must be at least 15 years old - are carefully screened, she said. They must complete an application, and go through an interview, plus background and reference checks. Both mentors and mentees also fill out a survey, so those with similar interests are paired.

Kids can be referred to the program by teachers, counselors, parents, and the students themselves. Parental permission is required, and no student is ever forced to participate. “A child can do one or the other of the two programs, but not both,” Joy said.

Asset mentoring is a popular program, Joy noted. Volunteers from previous years have already indicated their interest to continue mentoring. But Joy can use more help. Last year, more than 40 students in the elementary grades and junior high benefited from mentoring.

Joy invites potential mentors to contact her at 845-0483, extension 109, for further information, or to begin the enrollment process. “This is a great program. And it’s a chance for a caring mentor to grow into a child’s world.”

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