Valley News – Out & About: Windsor County mentoring grows
Published: 03/14/2022 00:32:51
Modified: 03/14/2022 00:32:10
WINDSOR — For nearly half a century, adult mentors have helped children in Windsor County meet life’s challenges.
Now, Windsor County Mentors are extending their reach across the river to Sullivan County to help youth ages 5-18.
“People really came out of nowhere saying ‘we have kids, we have kids, we have kids,'” said Matthew Garcia, executive director of the Windsor-based nonprofit. “Surprisingly, we were overwhelmed with the response.”
Now the staff is trying to recruit volunteers who want to work with young people, especially in Claremont and Newport. While the organization had long wanted to expand, Garcia said the plans came to fruition when he was approached by people in Sullivan County.
“In my job, I was really talking to a lot of people in the community, a lot of school staff, law enforcement, anybody and everybody I could talk to,” said Deryn Smith, Partnership Coordinator. in Community Health at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Population Health and Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator for the Greater Sullivan County Regional Public Health Network. “Overall, everyone was on the same page that young people need mentors.”
The problem was that no one had the capacity or ability to create a mentorship program from scratch. Instead, Smith reached out to Garcia who shared his goal of expanding into Sullivan County.
“People said there was a need and we said ‘hey, let’s see if we can meet that need,'” Garcia said.
Both Smith and Garcia said it has worked well so far.
“It was honestly perfect timing,” Smith said. “The reaction and response we’ve had from people in the community about the startup has been amazing. So we’re super excited and proud of that.
Since the program launched earlier this year, staff from schools, recreation services and the Family Treatment Court, among other institutions, have referred dozens of children who would benefit from mentoring.
“The list of kids who will use this program is so long,” Smith said. “Recruiting the kids was super easy, but it’s definitely harder to get those reliable adults.”
Garcia said the organization already has a pool of interested mentors and matches with the kids will begin in the coming weeks.
“We look at the interests of the child and the adult and try to put them together,” Garcia said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, child referrals had slowed and mentors were eager to resume volunteering. Typically, the organization has between 40 and 60 pairs. Mentors must be 21 years of age or older. They go through a thorough background check process. Once matched, they are asked to spend two hours a week with their mentees. If pairing is through a school, this time is one hour per week and the pairs meet at the student’s school.
“We try to match a mentor and mentee as close geographically as possible because we want them to be able to come together,” Garcia said.
While the organization requires a mentor to commit for a year, it’s not uncommon for these pairs to be together for five or six years. Smith pointed to evidence that shows young people who have adult mentors are more likely to graduate from high school and less likely to engage in substance abuse.
“It means having a reliable connection that they could meet with, learn from, feel safe, talk about what’s going on at home, at school, any stressors in their lives,” he said. she declared. “Mentoring in general has such a good outcome.”
Editor’s Note: For more information about volunteering and to complete an application, visit wcmentors.org, email [email protected], or call 802-674-5101. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at [email protected] or 603-727-3221.