ALPENA - Mentoring programs help children increase self-esteem, build confidence and become more socially interactive, according to Alpena Boys and Girls Club mentoring Director Kacey Beattie, who is working hard to increase the number of mentors in the community. With an increase in mentors, she hopes to improve the lives of twice as many children as the program helped last year.
"Mentoring is so important to this community," she said. "We have an original program concept that really brings the community and club members together."
Beattie works to match mentors and children with similar interests, making the experience even more enjoyable for both parties involved.
"The best part of mentoring is seeing the magic happen," Beattie said. "You can see the difference in the child and see their morale go through the roof relatively quickly after being paired with a mentor."
There are three mentoring programs available through the CLUB BIGS program: a lunch buddies program that runs during the school year, a high school bigs program where students do activities with club members while supervised, and a community mentoring program.
The community program runs all year, and mentors are asked to spend time with their match at least twice a month doing any sort of appropriate community activity such as going to the beach, attending a band concert or taking a bike ride down one of the many trails. Activities are approved by parents, and the children get to spend time building friendships with their mentors.
"We are very pleased with the mentors we have now, but are looking for more," Beattie said. "There are so many children who can benefit from this program. We're especially trying to have more strong positive male role models as mentors."
Beattie said one of the biggest satisfactions of her job is pairing a successful mentor match.
"It's a time commitment of a few times a month on your own time, but the end result is worth it," Beattie said. "You have a lot of fun and make a new friend, while students do the same and gain a role model and someone they can talk to and count on. From both sides, it's a winning situation."
Those who are interested in the community program start off committing to a year of a couple visits a month, and are asked to stick with it for the benefit of themselves and the child.
"We usually ask for a year commitment because we don't want these kids to be disappointed or heart broken," Beattie said. "If you have the time, be a community mentor. These kids are just wonderful."
Mentors can be any age as long as they're out of high school, and are patient with kids and have an interest in their well-being. Every mentor must pass a background check, and will then be interviewed on their interests so they can be matched with a child.
"Be patient and willing to open your heart and mind to someone," Beattie said. "Be their friend. Be their hero. These children are all creative and intelligent, and are just looking for recognition, friendship and fun. Have a passion to want to make a difference in their lives."
To find out more about the program or become a mentor, call Beattie at the Boys and Girls Club of Alpena at 356-0214, or stop in at the club and talk with her about getting involved in community mentoring.
Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.