Partners in Routt County looking for more mentors

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— Mentors can be found almost anywhere. Perhaps at home as a parent, in the community as a coach or in school as a teacher. Whatever their daily job might be, every mentor can make a difference in a young person's life. They can inspire, listen, advise and simply spend time with the community’s youths.

Partners in Routt County seeks to create sustainable mentor relationships with local youths between ages 7 and 17 on a volunteer basis. There are 45 active one-on-one partnerships operating through Partners; however, 25 youths still await a mentor match.

"Most of them are boys, so the need for male mentors is great," Partners Community Outreach Manager Becky Slamal said.

According to Slamal, many youths said they want a mentor because they need someone to spend time with, need help with homework, want to have fun or because their friends have one. The program also may be suggested by a school counselor, teacher or social worker.

One local partnership includes senior partner Kate Elkins and sixth-grader Adalid Ponce, who have been together for more than a year. The relationship was initiated when help with homework and the need to get out more motivated Adalid and her family to ask for a mentor.

"I've gained lots since I've hung out with Kate, but the best thing is that she showed me how to ignore people who call me names and just to keep trying and don't give up on the things I want to achieve in life," Adalid said.

The partnership goes both ways and reinforces the Partners’ slogan: Become a mentor. Change two lives!

"I feel like I have a better understanding of the challenges that young people in our community face," Elkins said.

Elkins thinks that many people falsely think that in order to be a mentor, they must have all the answers. But she disagrees.

"Being someone for Adalid to talk to and someone that laughs at her jokes and commiserates with her when something at school isn't going too well is my real job as a mentor," Elkins said.

As a mentor, Elkins is committed to spending time with Adalid each week for at least a year. They try new recipes, walk the Yampa River Core Trail, make friendship bracelets and just talk.

"I'm a mentor, but I'm also a friend," Elkins said.

Partners also provides a school-based mentoring program using AmeriCorps members. Through this effort, Partners recruits, screens, trains and supports nine AmeriCorps workers and places them in each of the three Routt County middle schools and two Steamboat elementary schools.

During the 2012-13 school year, school-based mentors logged 2,250 hours of one-to-one mentoring and provided 339 hours of after-school programming to Routt County students.

To help promote January as National Mentorship Month, Partners is planning two activities.

From 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Partners will host a Celebration Open House at its new office location in Sundance Plaza to honor current mentors and to reach out to those wanting to sign up to become one. The community is invited to attend this drop-in event.

Partners also is promoting national Thank Your Mentor Day on Thursday and encouraging area residents to say “thanks” to the people who have helped them and influenced their lives in some way.

"Mentoring provides an opportunity for shared learning and growth," Slamal said. "Many mentors report that they are surprised and grateful for the experience because it is more rewarding than they imagined."

For more information about Partners of Routt County and mentoring opportunities, visit www.partnersrouttcounty.org.

Madison Ruppel, a senior at Steamboat Springs High School, is working as an intern for the Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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