Stand By Me adds group mentoring
The Stand By Me Mentoring Program is spreading its wings to now include group mentoring as an additional volunteer option. For the past 15 years, we have focused on the traditional one-on-one mentoring model, but due to the overwhelming demand for mentors, we are expanding our reach in an effort to meet the growing need. When children actually want adults in their lives, it is time to act quickly, before they lose faith and turn to their friends for answers. Despite our best recruitment efforts, we struggle to keep-up with an ever-growing waiting list of children who need and want the guidance and friendship of a caring adult.
We frequently poll people who are not mentors to ask why, and their answers never surprise us. Many travel frequently and do not want to disappoint their mentee by not being there for them on a weekly basis. Some are less comfortable relating to youth one-on-one, but feel that there is safety in numbers. Others, especially those with a background in coaching or teaching, have indicated that the group setting is more appealing to them. Whatever the reasons, group mentoring addresses many of these concerns.
We presently have a very successful “pilot project” that has been in existence for the past four-plus years, and we have learned a lot from that group’s mentoring experiences. Ideally, our goal is to match three adults with a small group of five-to-seven wait-listed kids who are in the same grade at the same middle school. We want to keep the groups gender-specific, and we would like the adults to self-select each other. For example, finding three guys who are already buddies, get along well with each other and have similar interests, would be a great start. Our job, as a program, is to then identify five-to-seven boys on our waiting list who have the personality traits and the interests to be a good match. We are flexible with regard to meeting times, in an effort to accommodate mentors’ schedules and availability. And we have mentor centers on most public school campuses that serve as safe, supportive environments to get together and hang out. These centers are similar to small recreation rooms, complete with board games, sports equipment, art supplies, computers, puzzles, foosball, air hockey, rocket-building kits and so forth. Our goal is to provide a fun setting for mentors and mentees to get to know each other.
In addition, the Mentoring Alliance provides ongoing mentor training and support, as we have found that to be a critical component of building a successful mentor-mentee relationship. Other program features offered to help strengthen the bond of friendship include monthly field trips, social events, enrichment classes, community service projects, and empowerment activities. All of these provide opportunities for growth, as well as opening doors to new experiences for the kids we serve.
For those who have been thinking about becoming a mentor but have concerns about how to fit it into their lives, group mentoring as an alternative. With a waiting list of more than 200 children in Sonoma Valley schools, the time to act is now, before these kids lose faith in the adults around them.
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Kathy Witkowicki is the executive director of the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance. For more information go to sonomamentoring.org, or call 938-1990 to discuss mentoring in more detail.