Youth Mentorship Program To Move Forward

Corey Trainer, a guidance counselor at the Oskaloosa Elementary School talks about the needs he sees with young people.

Oskaloosa, Iowa – Giving young people a different view of the world is something a new Big Brothers and Big Sisters program aims to do when it potentially gets underway this coming school year.

The program is in its fledgling stages, and needs to raise money in order to have a stable base from which to build the program and provide its services to the young people of the community.

In February of this year, an initial community meeting was held at George Daily Auditorium, which lead to several other questions being asked. What would the program fall under? How will it be funded and will that revenue source be sustainable?

Steve Burnett, who is part of the committee helping to explore bringing such a program to Oskaloosa, said that partnering with Big Brothers and Big Sisters, is something they, the advisory board, feel strongly about.

“They are an organization that will allow us to hit the ground running,” added Burnett of Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and the over 100 years of experience their current staff would bring to helping build the program for Oskaloosa, “It’s just hard to beat that.”

The next steps for the program to move forward is the fundraising portion, in order to build upon the temporary budget that has been put in place, “We know we’re going to need somewhere in the range of $50,000.00 to get us off the ground and get this running.”

That money would allow the program to eventually take up to 50 kids, with expectations to be serving upwards of 30 kids the first year. Organizers would like to have funding in place for three years to build stability for the program.

The Mahaska County YMCA will provide an in-kind contribution in the form of housing for the new organization, and is an example of the community support being offered to help the program get off the ground.

The other goal will be finding folks that want to be mentors to young people.

Just because a child is in the program doesn’t indicate that the parents are deficient in their role, it’s an opportunity for another adult to assist and provide that different perspective or worldview to a young person.

Oskaloosa has drawn headlines because its poverty rate is above the state average. Charities, like Love Inc, hold classes for adults, mentoring them to better manage their incomes and lives. Seeing adults help mentor others was the spark that got Burnett wondering what we were doing to help young people be better prepared.

Burnett said he saw an opportunity to help the youngest be better prepared for the future, and the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program may be the venue to help them.

The hope is to eventually have 50 kids in the program, which according to the data helps to reduce absenteeism in school and increases graduation rates and the number of kids that eventually attend college. Behavioral improvement is an added benefit attributed to such a program.

“All of those things are something folks in the school system would definitely want,” says Burnett.

“The interesting thing about all of this is, nobody talks about the mentor part, but the mentors really benefit,” says Burnett.

One of the more common questions for the program is how do you guarantee that the child and adult will be beneficial for each other? Big Brothers and Big Sisters uses their program and experience to best match the two individuals. “They spend an enormous amount of time, not just putting a kid and adult together, but putting the right kid and adult together,” added Burnett.

Child safety, and the question of needing two adults per child, is considered. Burnett says that it’s not necessary in this program.

The other question is, why would a Big Brothers Big Sisters program work this time, when it failed in the community not so long ago?

Burnett said that the program being just an after school program limited the experience and base of mentors.

The new program would be community based, and would be one-on-one with adults and kids in the community.

Having kids matched with mentors by the end of the year could be done initially during the school year, “so there’s time to build a relationship, and that relationship would continue throughout the summer then,” explained Burnett.

If the funding goals can be reached, the hope is to have the program up and running by the end of the year. “The difference between if it’s a good idea and how good of an idea is when they have to open up their checkbook to support it is the difference,” says Burnett. “That will be the only thing keeping us from moving forward sooner than later.”

Corey Trainer, a guidance counselor at the Oskaloosa Elementary School spoke about how he believes such a program could be beneficial for the youth of the community.

Trainer quoted another study that said if a child has one caring adult in their life, they are less likely to be depressed or bullied, and are more likely to have the ability to stay calm during adversity and to also volunteer and take part in exercise.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had parents call and say ‘Hey, would you meet with my son? He really needs another positive male role model.’” says Trainer of the many requests received during the year to help mentor young people.

Parents will often say the child needs someone just to talk to, or spend some time with, explained Trainer.

Asking kids questions about what they had for supper or something fun they may have done over the weekend, “I think it’s conversations like that, kids feel they are being talked with and not talked at,” Trainer added.

Amy Meyer an advisory board member shared that for more information on the program, you are welcome to email them at – MahaskaMentors@gmail.com.

You can learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters on their website here – http://www.bbbs.org/

Editing by Ginger Allsup

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Posted by on May 19 2017. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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