December 9, 2009

Mentoring program benefits area youth

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

Christmas is a time for giving, so why not give the gift of a lifetime, by  becoming a mentor with the McKenzie County Mentoring Program.
Mentoring is a way to volunteer your time while leaving a lasting impact on yourself, your community and a young person’s life. Mentoring has proved to be a powerful tool that helps young people fulfill their potential.
“There are no material benefits to mentoring, but the benefits you receive are really wonderful,” says Karla Quale, McKenzie County Mentoring Program mentor. “When you see a child’s face light up just because you’re there, that’s a feeling that you never forget.”
Quale has been a member of the McKenzie County program since it began in February of this year when she was paired up with nine-year-old Aubree Drovdal.
“I enjoy spending time with Karla,” says an enthusiastic Aubree. “It doesn’t matter what we do, it’s always fun.”
Mentoring is described as the presence of caring adults offering support, advice, friendship, reinforcement and constructive examples.
“I put Aubree in the mentoring program because I’m going through a divorce and I thought this would be good for her,” says Aubree’s mother, Anna Drovdal. “She really enjoys the program and I am happy that she has someone other than me to interact with and learn from.”
Mentoring is a relationship that brings young people together with caring individuals who offer guidance, support and encouragement aimed at developing the competence and character of the mentee. Mentors and mentees choose their activities based on what they like to do. It can be as simple as going for a walk or reading together.
“Being a mentor isn’t hard,” says Quale. “I spend an hour or two with her each week doing little things like playing games, going to lunch or attending community events.”
 The mentor program was not started to fix problems or solve specific needs or challenges of parents or children. The goal of the program is to help young people create lifelong relationships with an adult friend outside of their family.
“Karla is a perfect fit for Aubree,” adds Anna. “She is patient with her and they always seem to have a great time. I feel really fortunate that she is a part of Aubree’s life.”
Karla and Aubree spend most of their time together one-on-one, but there are also monthly get-togethers where the group of mentors and mentees get together for a planned event like making Gingerbread Houses, the group’s activity for December.
“I had a lot of fun making my Gingerbread House,” says Aubree. “I like all of the stuff I do with Karla, whether it’s just us or the group. But my favorite thing to do with her is going to the Twist.”
As an adult, life can get busy and there may be times when you think volunteering is something you just don’t have time for. But Quale feels that the benefits are well worth her time.
“There are times when it’s been a busy or hectic week, but Aubree always leaves me feeling refreshed,” comments Quale. “After spending time with her I feel like I can handle whatever the week throws at me.”
If you have a few hours a week to make friends with a local child, then the mentoring program is something you should check into. Mentors are required to submit an application, pass a background check, and interview to explore relationships with family and peers to determine what youth might be the best match for them. After that, the rest is up to you.
If you are interested in becoming a mentor or know a student who would benefit from a mentor, contact Marcia Hellandsaas at 444-3451.