Hornets get helpful with youth mentoring program
The door opened and in walked Emporia State students heading for chocolate popcorn, ramen noodles and a signup sheet on a front table. By signing their names on the sheet, they were committing to the Emporia Youth Mentoring program.
Last week, the Emporia Youth Mentoring program held a meeting in Butcher Education Center to recruit students and to celebrate the work other mentors had accomplished.
The program is designed to help match pre-K-12 Emporia students with a mentor in a positive relationship that helps meet the needs of the student. There are currently 180 matches in the Emporia school district. Volunteer mentors are asked to see their student for one hour a week. They schedule meeting times either during the student’s lunch time or after school.
“It’s a school-based mentoring program, so all of our matches have to take place on school grounds,” said Heather Wagner, director of the Emporia Youth Mentoring program.
Any student may be referred to the program, as long as they and their parents agree to it. The student is then paired up with a mentor based on need. Sometimes matches may grow and last beyond the school mentoring program and on into other programs.
“If we have a match that’s going perfect and they would like to do that, we refer them to Big Brothers, Big Sisters and then they continue through that program,” said Wagner.
Since mentors cannot schedule visits outside of school, being referred to Big Brothers, Big Sisters allows them to continue the relationship outside of school. The mentoring program gives young students one-on-one time with a mentor that teachers cannot give them. They can talk, play games or do whatever they want in order to develop a close relationship.
“We want (mentors) to foster that love of learning in them, and also help them with some goal setting, self-esteem, self-confidence – all of those things to help them be more successful,” Wagner said.
The Youth Mentoring Program spawned from Youth Friends, which was started 18 years ago through funding by the Kauffman Foundation. After funding ran out, the program changed its name, and now the main funding for the program comes from private gifts and grants.
Brooklyn Owens, senior crime and delinquency studies major, matches mentors with students. She said the program is always looking for new volunteers.
“We have about 25-plus kids on our waiting list, and we’re always in need of new mentors,” Owens said.
Luke Langston, freshman secondary math education major, signed up to be a mentor at the program’s recent meeting in Butcher Education Center. Langston was referred to the program by a friend.
“I’ve been feeling like doing some volunteer work, getting more involved,” Langston said. “I’m excited to do it. I found out about it today, and I’m sold.”