Summit County’s Mountain Mentors program provides students with ‘listening ear’
Mountain Mentors is celebrating 30 years of uplifting Summit County youth.
The program connects students ages 8-18 with a mentor, someone who can lend a helping hand or do activities with the student on a monthly basis.
Mountain Mentors has more than tripled in size since Gini Bradley founded the program in 1987. While working with the program in its early years, Bradley was working with 15 pairs of students and mentors. In 2016, 49 students were connected with a mentor throughout the county. The continued interest in the program means that currently there are more students signed up than there are mentors available. The program has a wait list of 65 students.
“The program has grown in so many positive ways and impacted so many children through the years,” said Bradley in a release. “While the staff, mentors and children have all changed, the basic tenet that spending quality time with children can have a lifelong impact has never changed.”
In addition to celebrating the program’s anniversary, January is designated as National Mentoring Month, a title it was given in 2002.
Shawna Gogolen, the supervisor at the Mountain Mentor program, said that she became interested in the program because it was the right balance of using her background in education and working with kids. She started as a coordinator five and a half years ago, before becoming the supervisor.
There is a fairly extensive process for both students and mentors to be accepted into the program. Students and their parents go through an individual interview process. Volunteers must fill out an application, go through a background check, and an orientation as well as an interview. Mentors and students are paired based on hobbies and interests, as well as personality. Once accepted, mentors are required to spend at least eight hours with their student every month. Gogolen said that this is because research shows this is the minimum amount of time needed to build a trusting relationship.
“We see those partnerships as awesome role models for the students and adding in an additional, extra listening ear in a young person’s life,” Gogolen said. “We put a lot of thought into what types of people would get a long.”
But people in the program think that the lengthy acceptance process and requirements are more than worth it.
Steve Rosenman moved to Summit in April of 2016. After moving here, he wanted to find a way to give back and become more involved in the county. He has been in the Mountain Mentors program for two months now, and is paired with 13-year-old Dillon Newcomer.
“It’s a refreshing take on everything, and just being able to step back from work, and from busyness of everything else going on, and stress, and just kind of hang out and have fun, and start a fresh relationship with someone,” Rosenman said. “It’s been a really positive experience.”
Rosenman and Newcomer are both outdoor enthusiasts. Through the mentorship program the two have gone on hikes and skiing trips. The program also has a focus on community service, and Rosenman said that they have spent time picking up trash.
“It’s awesome. I’ve been way more active than before,” Newcomer said.
Gogolen added that in addition to individual get-togethers, the program has several group activities a month. Newcomer said that he looks forward to the group activities the most, if he can sign up in time for them.
Newcomer’s mom, Leslie Newcomer, said that the program has been an asset to their family. Since both Leslie and her husband work full-time, the program helps to get Dillon out of the house.
“It’s a really great thing for the community,” she said.
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