Community Connections: An opportunity you don’t want to miss

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The mission of Partners in Routt County is to make a positive difference in the lives of Routt County youth by facilitating partnerships between adult volunteers and youth.

Community Connections

This column publishes once a month in the Steamboat Pilot & Today. Read more columns here.

At the heart of Partners in Routt County is our tag line: “Become a mentor, change TWO lives.”

In our One-to-One and School-Based Mentoring programs, we are positively impacting several hundred Routt County youths each year through caring and intentional mentoring relationships.

There is tremendous evidence-based research on the benefits of mentoring in the lives of developing youths.

Similar to nation-wide research, we find in our own pre/post-test evaluation that youths who have been matched with a mentor show improvements in self-esteem and decision-making; indicate feeling more connected to their school and community; and have a higher perceived risk of use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

Much has been written recently about the measurable difference a positive adult role model can make in the life of a youth. I think it also is important to focus on the difference mentoring can make in the life of the volunteer mentor.

In a 2013 Health and Volunteering Study, the United Health Group found that in addition to the many social and personal growth benefits of volunteering, new research now also strongly indicates individual health benefits, as well.

An integrated approach to well-being includes not only physical health, but our emotional health, our sense of purpose, our connections to our community and our overall quality of life.

The findings from this research demonstrate that those who volunteer report feeling better —physically, mentally and emotionally. They have lower stress levels, are more engaged and connected to their community and have a deeper sense of purpose and meaning.

And it is not just that healthy people volunteer more often — it actually showed improvement in health and a lower risk of disease later in life.

David McMillian said it best in a recent Huffington Post article titled, "7 Reasons Why You Should Become a Mentor”:

"Your decision to become a mentor will lead to a series of events and opportunities you can't possibly foresee, to experiences and challenges and rewards you can't anticipate — but all of them will force you to learn and evolve and, perhaps even despite yourself, become a better human being.

"Yes, the world needs more mentors, more shining beacons who will help our young people navigate the perilous challenges of our ever-changing world. But it's just as important to remember that young people can also serve as beacons for us — by helping us navigate the perilous challenges in our own lives (though they typically do this in the most innocent ways, often without trying to), and by reminding us about what really matters. Ultimately, mentoring isn't a one-way process. It's a two-way street. It has the potential to change — indeed, to radically transform — not just one life, but two. And its ripple effects have the potential to impact our community and the world. Not a bad return on your investment, if you ask me."

Some may see our tag line as a bit of a cliché, but it doesn't make it any less true.

We take great pride in the work entrusted to us: keeping kids safe and helping them to develop in to healthy, productive adults and leveraging our greatest asset — our volunteers — to make a difference and benefit from the experience, as well.

Sometimes the hardest part is just making the decision and taking the first step. It’s an opportunity you don’t want to miss, and we look forward to helping you get started.

Call Partners at 970-879-6141, or visit its website at www.partnersrouttcounty.org.

Becky Slamal is the Community Outreach Manager for Partners in Routt County. She has worked in the field of youth mentoring for nearly 15 years and is grateful to be back in her hometown with her husband, daughter and extended family.

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