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
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.
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
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
“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