Mentors say program gives them a purpose

Published 10:19 pm Tuesday, January 15, 2019

STARS mentors Katelyn Tollefson and Roger Oberg said they mentor children to build the self-confidence of their mentees and provide themselves fulfillment.

Tollefson, Oberg and 20 other STARS mentors meet with their mentees two to four times a month for at least one hour per meeting for activities such as attending movies and hanging out.

January is National Mentoring Month, which was marked by the Albert Lea City Council on Monday.

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The program covers students ages 7 to 17 who attend Glenville-Emmons, Alden-Conger and Albert Lea schools. Students are sometimes referred by teachers and social workers after noticing they need more friends or a role model.

“Sometimes the kids who are being mentored don’t really exactly have good family lives, so they kind of get yelled at, dissed, anything, so they probably don’t have a very good confidence,” Tollefson said.

Tollefson, volunteer and outreach coordinator at United Way of Freeborn County and chore services manager at Senior Resources of Freeborn County, said volunteering allows her to guide her mentee, a boy, to build his confidence and make him feel safer.

“I like to stay busy and active, and I really enjoy kids,” she said.

“It makes me feel like I have more of a purpose, like I am actually doing and helping somebody out.”

Katelyn Tollefson and Roger Oberg said they mentor children to build the self-confidence of their mentees and provide themselves fulfillment. – Sam Wilmes/Albert Lea Tribune

Oberg noted the unhealthy self-feelings he notices among his mentees.

“They just feel like nobody cares,” he said. “I’ve noticed that with a lot of my mentees over the years.”

Oberg, who began mentoring through the program 12 years ago, noted his longest relationship with a mentee lasted five years until the person graduated from high school. He also has volunteer and work experience with youth.

“I just have a love for kids,” he said.

Interested mentors must submit an application, undergo a background check and secure three references. Project Coordinator Mary Jo Volkman then travels to the potential mentor’s home, interviews the person and finds interests, making it easier to match them with the right mentees.

Tollefson said mentoring makes her thankful for what she had while growing up.

“There’s so much going on that people are so focused on their own life and on what’s going on in their life that they don’t realize what is going on outside of their own perspective,” she said.

Tollefson and Oberg noted they look to positively direct any negative experiences their mentees have.

Oberg said his role is to encourage them to do better, have fun with them and show that he cares.

“I am here for you if you need somebody,” he said.

A program appreciation dinner is planned at 6 p.m. Jan. 25 at Mine Agains in Alden.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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