National Mentoring Month: Many opportunities are available for people looking to be a mentor

Published 10:28 pm Tuesday, January 14, 2020

As part of National Mentoring Month, the program coordinator for the STARS Mentoring Program is spreading the word of the need for more mentors in the community.

STARS, which stands for Success Through Adults Reaching Students, is a nonprofit organization serving youth and families in Freeborn County and the eastern portion of Faribault County, including Bricelyn, Easton, Kiester, Walters and Wells.

STARS was created in Faribault County in 2001 by citizens of the United South Central School District to provide community-based mentoring to youth as a strategy for preventing youth risk behaviors, according to the STARS website. In July 2006, STARS took over the Community Mentor Connection, a youth mentoring program in Freeborn County, which had been providing mentors to youth since 1997 with help from the Family Services Collaborative and Freeborn County Department of Human Services.

Mary Jo Volkman, program coordinator, said one in three children in the United States doesn’t have anyone they can turn to or talk to. Research shows that mentored youth are less likely to begin using alcohol or drugs, skip school or fight.

Volkman said the children in the mentoring program come from varying backgrounds, whether that be a household with parents who work long hours to make ends meet, a single-parent home, a home with an only child or even a home with many other siblings.

“The need is there, definitely,” she said.

Right now there are 20 mentors matched up with children, and there are about six or seven boys and three or four girls who still need mentors, she said. Children are signed up for the program through teachers, social workers and parents.

People who are interested in becoming a mentor should fill out an application, which is available online through starsforkids.org/become-mentor/ or by emailing her at starsforkids@yahoo.com.

In addition to the application, people must turn in three references, consent to a fingerprint background check through the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, have an in-home interview and then go through training before being paired up with a child.

During the interview, she asks questions about the potential mentor’s background and interests that will be used when matching up with a child to be mentored.

She also conducts interviews at the child’s home to find out the interests of the child, and then once a match is made, she meets with the child, parents and mentor at the child’s home, where they sign papers for one year of mentoring.

Mentors meet with the child two to four times a month and can do different things throughout the community.

Every six to eight weeks, there are also group events where all the mentors and mentees in the program can come for an activity.

The next one the group will have is a Paint and Pastries event at The Albert Lea Art Center Feb. 15, where mentors and mentees will learn how to paint from artist Beth Tostenson.

Other activities have included the rock gym, the Brookside Boathouse and the Albert Lea Family Y. In Wells, they have also been to the Wells Depot Museum.

“The mentors and the mentees all come together to share friendships,” Volkman said.

If people are interested in finding out more about becoming a mentor, they can contact Volkman at 507-383-5272.

The mentor application form is also online at starsforkids.org/become-mentor/