Mentoring can give keys to life success to our children

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Mentoring is alive and well in the Walla Walla Valley.

More mentoring programs than ever before are available for children and youth in our area, and the Walla Walla Mentoring Coalition would like to tell you more about what we have to offer.

Did you know the mentoring relationship between a caring adult and a child or youth is the primary building block to foster resilience in our young people today?

It's true, and national resilience research makes that fact crystal clear. You may not be aware that there are a number of organizations offering various types of mentoring in our Valley, and they're all part of the Mentoring Coalition.

The coalition was formed in 2009 to raise the visibility of mentoring in the area, to share best practices and to avoid duplication of services. Let us introduce you to the organizations:

The Whitman Mentor Program began in 1994 as a senior psychology thesis of Jamey Wolverton, who was interested in how the mentoring relationship affected "at-risk" third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students. During the first year of the program, 23 pairs participated in the study at Berney Elementary School. Wolverton found the students' attendance rates and self-esteem improved significantly.

The program matches individual student volunteers with a child at the six elementary schools and two middle schools. The volunteers meet with their partner weekly for about an hour during the child's lunch and recess.

Elective trainings are available to provide additional skills to the volunteers beyond the initial orientation. Find out more at www.whitman.edu/content/community_service

Friends of Children of Walla Walla was formed by a group of community leaders that coalesced around a strong concern for young persons in the Walla Walla Valley.

Founded in 1999, the organization built its services upon the concept that a safe, consistent relationship with a caring adult outside the home can help a young person navigate the developmental challenges that all youth face.

From the inception of this home-grown, local mentoring organization, there has been a commitment to rigorous screening and training of volunteers and providing the ongoing support needed by volunteers and children to ensure mutually beneficial friendship matches.

Four years ago, Friends added an exciting program to its traditional, community-based services. While the latter is built on a one-year commitment from an adult who sees their matched young friend weekly, one-on-one in the community, the ABC Program requires a commitment lasting a school year, and all contacts take place on school grounds during school time.

This year Friends has started a new ABC Program at Blue Ridge Elementary, and volunteers are needed now. Together, the two programs form a solid approach to mentoring young persons in the Walla Walla Valley. In twelve years of service, over 600 children aged 6-17 have been served in the Friends programs. For more information, go to www.wallawallafriends.org.

Trilogy's mentoring programs focus on research-based education and ongoing recovery.

With five youth support groups offered every week, including a group at Walla Walla High School, Trilogy staff and volunteers become trusted teachers and influential sponsors to young people.

Tyson, 16, explains the impact of Trilogy's support services: "The Trilogy groups keep my mind off using drugs and show me that people care about what happens to me. They're a great way to relieve stress. You can talk about your problems and get stuff off your chest. Trilogy offers great sober activities and opportunities to hang out with good people."

Trilogy's Recovery Coach Program, still in its start-up phase, includes 24 community volunteers who are committed to helping youth make good decisions and lead productive lives. For more information about Trilogy's programs and services, go to www.trilogyrecovery.org

Since 2002, START Mentoring has led volunteer groups at the Juvenile Justice Center with the goal of assisting youth in identifying past actions that are not in support of their self-identified values, helping them to create an effective blueprint that will lead them into becoming adults who embody positive change within themselves and the community.

The program facilitates an hourlong guided conversation between a high-risk youth and an adult volunteer, working through an engaging character-based curriculum, setting personal goals, and developing patterns for positive life choices.

START mentors meet in small groups, but are paired for one-on-one discussion with a youth. For more information, go to www.startwallawalla.com

Children's Home Society of Washington offers mentoring programs for children through its Afterschool Homework Club and for parents through its Home Team program.

Students in College Place can have an adult volunteer to help them with their homework - someone to be there regularly, to care about how they do and to make homework something to look forward to after school. In Home Team, parents can be matched up with a veteran parent who can come alongside and support young parents in their challenging but vital role. For more information, go to www.chs-wa.org.

Did you know national research consistently shows mentoring relationships have a positive impact on young people, making it less likely they will use or misuse alcohol and/or other drugs, engage in criminal behavior and commit peer violence and more likely that they will perform well in school, attend college, and have satisfying relationships with peers and parents?

In today's culture, young people need multiple adults who are safe, consistent, caring role models and friends they can count on - to listen, to be there, and to care about what they are doing, how they are spending their time, and what they dream of becoming. If you have considered giving back to your community.

If you want a way to really make a difference … if you want to contribute to a cause beyond yourself … think about joining one of the fine organizations of the Walla Walla Mentoring Coalition.

You may find yourself saying what we hear repeatedly from our volunteers: "I think I get more out of this than they do!"

Mark Brown is executive director of Friends of Children of Walla Walla.

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