Rohnert Park-Cotati community members are working to launch a mentoring program called “Mentor Me.” This program connects students, kindergarten through high school, to community members who mentor them throughout the academic school year. In the planning process now, the goal is to commence the program in the fall starting at John Reed Elementary. For the program to launch they must first raise approximately $20,000. They are working with the two local rotary clubs and other sponsors to reach that goal. These funds will be used to compensate an on-site supervisor, responsible for overseeing the program, participants and mentors. They will also be used to set up a “mentorship space on the school campus and procure supplies such as furnishings, games, arts and other supplies.”
If you would like to assist, you can donate at: https://secure.givelively.org/donate/petaluma-people-services-center/cotati-rohnert-park-ppsc-mentor-me. You can also find additional information and donate through: https://www.wearementorme.org/about-2/schools/mentor-me-in-cotati-rohnert-park/.
Mentor Me is a successful program that started in 2000 at McNear Elementary School in Petaluma. It was designed “to support students who were recognized as ‘falling through the cracks.’” As the effort grew, the program merged into one of many under the Petaluma People Services Center (PPSC). According to their website, over 85 percent of the children in the program are economically disadvantaged and have at least one environmental factor that puts them at-risk of school failure, substance abuse, economic dependency, and/or incarceration. Yensi Jacobo, PPSC’s Director of Youth Services, said the program has grown to 18 Petaluma school sites. There are currently 250 youth in active mentor relationships with another 80 students on a wait list to be matched up with an adult mentor.
Bringing this successful program to the Cotati-Rohnert Park school district originated from the Inaugural Class of the Leadership Rohnert Park Program. Elece Hempel, Executive Director PPSC attended one of their meetings and spoke about the program. Courtney O’Daniel, who was a participant in that class and is spearheading the effort with other class and community members, reflected on what it would have meant to her had she had such a relationship when growing up. Active for many years in school and public library reading programs, Courtney said “these mentors change lives.” I believe we can all relate to having a caring adult in our life; teacher, aunt or uncle, professional mentor on-the-job who made a difference for ourselves too.
If interested in being a mentor, you probably want to know what it takes. Again, according to the website “95 percent of the job is showing up!” As a mentor you take the lead in supporting a young person through an on-going, one-to-one relationship, serving as a positive role model and friend. You build the relationship by planning and participating in activities together, respecting and communicating with each other and helping your youth set goals and work towards achieving them.
As a mentor you receive training, support from the on-site coordinator and the opportunity to participate in round tables with other mentors. You commit to a two-year relationship at a minimum, although mentors often continue their relationships well beyond two years. Obviously working with children, you’ll have to apply, submit fingerprints and have a background check. Fortunately for our community we don’t have to reinvent the wheel as the process is already in place through PPSC. You also must be at least 18 years of age and willing to meet with or communicate with your mentee at least an hour per week.
Your mentee would have been nominated for the program by a teacher or knowledgeable adult. The on-site coordinator would work with parents, students, and potential mentors to obtain a good match based on mutual interests and your skills. Jacobo stressed this is not a “tutoring program.” Although you might occasionally help the student with homework or academic skills, the main purpose is to provide the youth with another caring adult; one who “assures them they aren’t alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges and makes them feel like they matter.”
Until they get the fund raising out of the way, they aren’t actively recruiting volunteers. However, if you think you’ll want to make a difference in a young person’s life, you can start the application process by reaching out by email to info@WRMM.org. Even if you aren’t interested in being a mentor, you can help get the program up and running by donating. No amount is too small.