Mentor program impacts local youth

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Mentor program impacts local youth

Emma Johnson, Staff Reporter

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The Youth Services of Kittitas County strives to help the the youth of the Ellensburg community through their youth mentor program, according to Claire Church, executive director of the youth services. The youth mentor program is designed to give young people in Ellensburg an adult figure to look up to. According to Church, the mentor program started in 2013, and the organization itself has been open since 1971.

The age range for youth who have the opportunity to be mentored is 5-18 years old. For people who are looking to become mentors, they must be 18 years old or older. There are currently 15 matched mentors to mentees. There are 10-15 mentors that are still looking for matches, according to Alice Nelson, a specialist for youth services. The mentor to mentee match process all starts with the application. The applications ask the mentors about their interests and a little bit about themselves. They are also asked to list what they are not interested in so the program coordinators can find a mentee that would fit well with the mentor’s interests.

The same process goes for mentees looking for a mentor. The mentor and mentee will then meet and spend about one hour together, and after that time, they will both decide if they think the match would be a good fit or not. If either the mentor or the mentee decide it would not be a good fit, they both go back through the matching process until that perfect match is found, Nelson said.

Once the matches are found, the mentor goes through a three hour training process that goes over different scenarios that could happen while the mentor is with the mentee. Once that is done, they meet once a week for 12 months. During their meeting time, they do assorted activities based off of what the pairs interests are. After the 12 months, if they both decide they want to continue, they will go on for longer.

Those who cannot make the commitment of meeting with a mentee every week for a few hours at a time can have the option of going to the school of the mentee and having lunch with them or participating in after school homework help. Both of these options are great for college students who go home for the summer because they can be involved with the mentor program, but still be away from Ellensburg for the summer.

Other ways CWU students can get involved are by doing practicum hours at the youth center or doing internships through youth services, according to Church.

Youth services collaborates with schools in the district to get the word out to students who might be interested in the program. The schools can get the students set up with  applications.

According to Nelson, having a mentor positively affects the mentee’s academics, attendance at school and overall mental health when there is someone they can look up to outside of their family as an adult figure.

“I think having connections with humans is the most important thing we can do in our lives,” Church said. “With all the adversity that kids face today, it is shown through the data that the connection with an adult outside of their family circle is the number one resilience building factor for kids today.”

Church said it is fun to watch how the mentors tap into their inner child while interacting with the kids they are mentoring. She gets to see a different side of the mentors than most people see.

“They take off their work hats and play,” Church said.

Church also talked about how nice it is for adults to see just how intelligent the youth are today and how they are able to see that the future is bright in the hands of young people. The Kittitas County Youth Services’ building is on Third St. in downtown Ellensburg.

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