Mentor Superior beginsA new program is seeking a few good friends. Whether they like movies and cooking or rock climbing and kayaking, there is a child waiting to bond with them through the new Mentor Superior program.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
A new program is seeking a few good friends. Whether they like movies and cooking or rock climbing and kayaking, there is a child waiting to bond with them through the new Mentor Superior program.
“One of the greatest factors in a child’s success is just the number of positive adults they have in their life,” said Rebecca Haavik, Mentor Superior program advocate.
The new program offers one-on-one mentoring between youth and adults, something that has been missing in Superior since Kinship Mentoring closed its doors in 2005. It has returned, buoyed by a group of community leaders, a partnership with Mentor Duluth and funding from the United Way of Superior-Douglas County.
“I was thrilled to see a youth mentoring program submitted for funding,” said Kathi Madsen, executive director of the United Way of Superior-Douglas County, which recently presented the program with a $15,000 check. “Statistically youth mentoring programs make the biggest impact on youth involved, as well as documenting a longer-term impact.”
The idea for Mentor Superior started with the Superior/Douglas County Leadership Program. Six participants, including Ryan Yingling, teamed up to focus on youth issues. The one they decided to champion was mentoring.
Along with his parents, Yingling had many adult role models in his life. These teachers, coaches, pastors and friends made an impact on his life as he was growing up. Although he doesn’t have the numbers to prove it, he knows in his heart that there are children out there today who could use similar support.
“Some of these kids they just don’t have that,” said Yingling, who now serves as chairman of the Mentor Superior advisory committee.
They felt so strongly about their cause that when the leadership program ended after nine months, the Mentor Superior team stayed together, pushing to make it a reality. They reached out to Mentor Duluth and found that the longtime mentoring program was seeking a chance to branch out into Superior.
“We’d been thinking about Superior forever,” said Dave Schaeffer, director of Mentor Duluth which encompasses seven different agencies. But they needed someone to step forward to put it together.
“We just met with them at the right time; everything just lined up right,” Yingling said. Although Mentor Superior is a separate program dedicated to youth in Superior and Douglas County, Mentor Duluth agreed to serve as the umbrella organization and complete many of the administrative tasks needed including fiscal agent and database management.
Kim Nygaard ran Kinship from its inception in 2000 until it closed in 2005. She was happy to hear one-on-one mentoring is returning to Superior.
“Having a positive role model or caring adult in a child’s life is so important,” she said. “Everyone thrives when someone pays attention to them.”
The point of Mentor Superior isn’t to spend a lot of money or do a lot of pricey things.
“A mentor relationship is basically a friendship, and that’s what we really stress,” Haavik said. “You’re there to be a friend, not to be an ATM or Santa to them. You’re there to be a stable person in their life.”
The program will provide once-a-month activities for participants. A number of local businesses and attractions offer special discounts to mentors when they are with their mentees. But the program stresses free or low-cost things.
“I mean a lot of people just make dinner or watch a movie or go for a walk or things like that,” Haavik said. “Things you would do with a friend.”
Both mentors and children are being sought for the program. To be a mentor, you must be at least 18 years old, be able to commit to the program for one year, have reliable transportation and be able to spend eight to 12 hours a month with a child. Children must be 5-17 years old, be able to commit for one year and have eight to 12 hours per month to spend with their mentor.
For more information on the program or to sign up, stop by the Mentor Superior kick-off party from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday at Kelly Park, 711 Grand Ave. The free event will include music by Sounds Unlimited, food, games and more. Advisory committee members will be on hand to talk about the program.
Mentor Superior currently has one part-time advocate. Yingling said the advisory committee hopes the program will grow to encompass two full-time advocates and 100 matches in its first five years.
The need is out there, Nygaard said. When Kinship closed its doors due to lack of funding, it was serving about 100 children through its school-based, community-based and group activity programs.
For more information on Mentor Superior, look up the website mentorduluth.org, search for Mentor Superior on Facebook, call Haavik at (218) 393-9160 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.