Summit County mentorship program seeks 30 volunteers
Pairing local students with supporters, Summit County’s Mountain Mentors program is pushing to recruit 30 new mentors for the month of June. Program Supervisor Shawna Lane said she had already gotten eight inquiries this month but currently has 45 interested students waiting for mentors.
“We’ve been really happy with the response,” she said. “We would see that as a huge success if we could match a third of those kids.”
Mountain Mentors currently has 50 students, ages eight to 16, matched with an adult. Summit County’s program is unique in that it is open to all students who are interested, not just those mandated to participate.
“We believe mentoring is powerful for any student no matter what,” she said. “It’s this unique adult who’s pouring their time, energy and attention into a young person. It’s incredible to see them just blossom and come out of their shell.”
She said mentors are matched with students with similar interests in order to encourage a bond between the two. While a minimum commitment of a year is asked for the program, she added most matches last longer.
Anita Overmyer, Development and Volunteer Director with the Family and Intercultural Resource Center (FIRC), has served as a mentor for three years. She saw her mentee transition through junior high into high school.
“It’s great seeing his confidence build over the years, with who he’s becoming as a teenager,” she said. “Trust builds throughout the relationship. You see that you’re someone that they can depend on.”
While mentors are just required to spend eight hours per month with a students, she said she and her mentee meet every week. Sometimes they play cards at a coffee shop, build woodworking projects together or volunteer at the FIRC. She also took him mountain biking for the first time.
“It’s a really low-key kind of thing; we just pick a different activity every week,” she said. “The junior high years can be a tough time for kids. Having someone you can hang out with where you aren’t judged and can be supported is really great.”
Several group events, such as rafting trips, bonfires and cross-country skiing are planned every month to give the mentors more ideas for activities. But, the ultimate goal is to build a bond of confidence between the two.
“I do hear a lot from the mentors, saying ‘I thought I was going to change a young person, and they’ve changed my perspective on life.’ They bridge a generational gap, cultural gap or a socio-economic gap,” Lane said. “Because of that, both the mentee and the mentor are learning from each other and sharing life experiences in a unique way.”
To serve as a mentor, volunteers must be at least 21 years of age, provide four references, pass a background check, an in-home interview and a training course to qualify for the program. An application form can be found under the “Services” tab of the Summit County website at http://www.co.summit.co.us/index.aspx?NID=332.
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