A brand new mentoring program for kids in the Clayton Ridge School District is taking shape this month with grant funds from HAWC Partnerships for Children. The program is the first of its kind in the area and was inspired by a community needs assessment.
The grant was obtained by Guttenberg Municipal Hospital’s Family Resource Center, managed by Kari Harbaugh. A steering committee has been holding informational meetings about the new program and 30 adults have already signed on as mentors and committee members. “North Fayette Valley (NFV) has had a mentoring program for 15 years and it’s been very successful. It started with a grant similar to this,” said Harbaugh. “Grant funds have run out and it’s still going, because the community has seen and understood the benefits.” The steering committee has also met with the leader of the NFV program and plans to model the new Clayton Ridge program on the successes of NFV’s.
“It will take a lot of work in the beginning,” said Harbaugh. The program will require committees to work behind the scenes in marketing, sustainability, and activity planning. A coordinator, paid with grant funds, will recruit mentors and mentees, train mentors, visit new mentees and their families, monitor mentor-mentee relationships, organize group events, provide resources as needed, organize and implement fundraisers to keep the program active and conduct annual mentor background screenings.
“A mentor should be someone who really has an interest in making an impact on a child’s life. Mentors could be someone with a lot of time or a small amount of time to give; a single person, a couple; a young person or a retired person; a parent or someone who has no children of their own,” Harbaugh explained. “It’s going to take a very diverse group of personalities because every child is not the same.” Mentors and mentees are asked to commit to a year in the program with a minimum of three contact hours per month. Mentors must pass an extensive background check as well as a safe driver check, and attend a 2-hour orientation.
Mentors and mentees will fill out applications detailing their skills and interests, activities they enjoy, and personal preferences. The coordinator will meet face-to-face with each applicant to ensure a good match is made. Mentees’ parents or guardians will also be asked to fill out a questionnaire detailing what they hope their child will gain from participating in the program.
Another facet of the program, mentor for a day, is a workshop-like experience organized as an activity for mentors and mentees to attend together. Mentors for a day can either lead a workshop based on their own skillset or attend a workshop with a mentee.
Optional monthly mentor-mentee activities will be organized on topics ranging from automotive to cooking skills, sports, science and technology, arts and crafts, or outdoor activities. “We want to teach skills in an informal way, based on what kids are interested in,” explained Harbaugh.
There is no cost to participate in the program. The HAWC grant, which runs until the end of the year, funds background checks, coordinator wages, travel insurance, and some activities. Space, computers, and supplies are being provided in-kind by the Guttenberg Municipal Hospital. Partnerships are being developed with the schools and 5C, who administers a DFC grant. The steering committee has already developed a three-year plan for continued grant funding of the mentor program.
“Every child needs four loving, trusted adults in their lives,” said Harbaugh, quoting a campaign done by Helping Services. A child with four loving, trusted adults in their lives is less likely to be the target of abusive adults or peers and can cope better in tough situations. “This isn’t just for kids who are at risk. Maybe a child has an interest in something the parents don’t know much about, or one of the parents is traveling a lot. There could be a multitude of reasons for becoming a mentee.”
Steering committee members attended parent-teacher conferences at St. Mary’s and Clayton Ridge schools to answer questions and talk with parents, and have met with teachers and administration in both schools. An open house will be held Monday, Feb. 19, from 5-7 p.m. at the Family Resource Center, 514 S. River Park Drive, Guttenberg. The newly hired coordinator will be on hand to answer questions and provide information to interested mentors, mentees, and parents or guardians.
Mentors are needed not just in Guttenberg but also in Garnavillo, Osterdock, Millville, and other surrounding towns. “This is your chance to help make our area the place you want to live,” Harbaugh said.
For more information or an application for the program, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Harbaugh at the Family Resource Center by calling 563-252-3215.
Photo credit to MassAcademySciences of Flickr Creative Commons.