Albert Lea woman retires as mentor coordinator
Published 2:37 pm Monday, January 20, 2014
By Tiffany Krupke
Albert Lea woman Carolyn Smith will retire as coordinator for Success Through Adults Reaching Students after 12 years of work.
Smith decided to apply as coordinator after seeing an advertisement in a local newspaper.
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As coordinator, she worked to find adult volunteers to spend time with children. Smith also worked to match them with a mentor. She matches mentors with kids based on their interests and location. Often, she said, she goes on gut instinct.
“It is really fun to match an adult with a child,” Smith said. “I have had some wonderful mentors.”
Children sign up for a year, and get together with a mentor once a week for a few hours. The mentor is free to choose an activity, as long as the parents approve. Some typical activities include baking cookies or arts and crafts.
There are currently about 25 active matches.
Smith said her longest match is a pair matched for nine years.
One of the challenges is finding volunteers, Smith said.
“It is such a fun thing to do, sometimes I wonder why more people don’t,” Smith said. “At the same time I know they worry they might not have enough time and I understand that. They don’t want to disappoint a kid.”
Smith appreciates her mentors who give their time to the organization.
“I’m proud of my mentors who give their time to help kids,” Smith said.
Smith encourages people to volunteer as a mentor it allows people to be a friend to a kid.
“I twist their arm until they agree,” Smith with a laugh. “No, I just keep talking to people.”
Smith said the program is even more fun for children than adults. The program gives them a confidant.
“Kids just light up,” Smith said. “It is a really positive experience.”
Smith has a background in teaching and has enjoyed working with kids.
Some highlights from her time as coordinator include going to the zoo with mentors and children, making Mexican food with kids for Cinco de Mayo, and the day-to-day work.
Smith is sad to leave her position but looks forward to spending more time with her grandchildren, visiting her sister in Seattle and doing more volunteering. She will continue as a mentor after her retirement. Smith would like to see the program grow and to raise more money.
The program recently received a state grant, which will allow them to continue helping children in the community.
The coordinator position was filled at the Jan. 13 board meeting with Mary Jo Volkman, an adult educator, taking over as coordinator.