Paul Bialek is the executive director of Partners in Routt County, a local nonprofit organization that pairs youth with adult mentors. Partners is losing $60,000 in state funding over the next 18 months.
Q. How does Partners impact youth in Routt County? What will happen if the county loses its mentoring program?
A. Partners in Routt County annually mobilizes more than 4,000 hours of volunteer time for Routt County youth. We currently have 30 active partnerships that meet an average of three hours per week. We have 17 youth waiting for adult partners and we have monthly recreational activities available to all youth in our program.
Mentoring studies have shown that youth paired with mentors miss less school, have fewer problems with substance abuse, are less aggressive and have higher grades and higher self-esteem than youth on the waiting list of mentoring programs.
We are certainly not at the point of folding up shop, however, if the county lost its mentoring program the youth currently benefiting from these relationships would suffer a serious emotional loss and obviously no future partnerships could be formed. Ask yourself, what it would be like to lose a friend you respect and admire?
Q. What does the loss of the state's annual Tony Grampsas Youth Services contract with Partners mean for the future of the organization?
A. In the short term, it means a much tighter budget and the loss of one full-time position. It means that we will have to focus on our basic, core functions of screening, matching and supporting our partnerships because we will not have the fiscal capacity for any program expansion or any "extras." It means we may ask for greater volunteer commitment from the community members that already give so much and perform such valuable support roles.
In the long term, it means we have to ask for more local support and find creative solutions to insure the organization's financial sustainability.
It means Partners in Routt County gets stronger because of the people involved and because of this community, despite adversities presented by political and economic forces.
Q. You said the organization is open to whatever umbrella it must get under to ensure its survival. Does that mean Partners could join another human service agency in the county?
A. We are actively exploring every possible avenue for ensuring the long-term future of mentoring in Routt County.
It is too early to say what form this might take, but the board of directors is committed to making sure that our mission of facilitating one-to-one mentoring partnerships continues to be met.
Q. How great is the need for adult volunteers? What does a commitment to mentoring youth involve?
A. Although we are blessed with many wonderful and committed volunteers, we always need more. In South Routt County particular, the number of referred youth is much greater than the number of volunteer mentors.
We ask for a commitment of three hours per week for one year. Each adult volunteer is screened, trained and regularly contacted after being matched. We also provide ongoing opportunities to share experiences and get further training after the match is made.
Even more than the commitment a partnership requires, we try to emphasize the enrichment on both sides. Mentoring is a two-way street, and it really is true that on the whole our senior partners find that the more they give, the more they get.