Feb 012006
Authors: Amber Baker

Interested in becoming a Senior Partner? Contact Partners Mentoring of Larimer County's main office at (970) 484-7123.

Problems at school, problems at home, no one to talk to and feeling like no one cares or understands.

Overwhelmed by all this, where can today's youth turn for the understanding and affirmation they crave?

A mentor, someone older and fun to just hang out with, can be the answer for the attention youth need.

Partners Mentoring for the Youth of Larimer County provides one-on-one mentoring partnerships for youth between the ages of eight and 18. Kids are referred by school counselors and teachers who identify them as needing an extra role model in their lives. There are over 100 kids on the waiting list for a partner, and at least 2,000 kids in Larimer County have been identified as kids who could benefit from a mentoring partnership, said Amy Sheele, development manager for Partners. (CQ)cm

Volunteers must be at least 20-years-old and willing to commit three hours per week for a year. Common interests link a junior partner (the youth) and a senior partner (the mentor) so that they can easily find fun things to do together.

But three hours a week may seem like a lot to a college student already overloaded on classes, assignments and extracurricular activities.

Rob Cook (CQ)cm, a mentor for Partners, worried about the same thing when he committed to the mentoring program. But instead of a burden, he found the time to be a refreshing reprieve from life's hectic cycle.

"It's a time to relax and have fun," said Cook, a senior recreation and tourism major. "It's like hanging out with a friend." (CQ)cm

Cook (CQ)cm said his junior partner has taught him a lot. Like how to throw a football.

"I couldn't throw one before. Now, thanks to him, I can," Cook (CQ)cm said.

Cook (CQ)cm has learned other things as well.

"He teaches me about life, and about what I want to do with my life," he said. "And I've learned that I have a lot more to give than I thought."

Cook became involved with Partners when he realized at the end of his high school career that he wasn't giving enough back to the community.

"The community has given me so much, and I wasn't doing anything for the community," he said. "I needed to give something back."

Cook averred that this experience has changed him for the better.

"I used to be selfish with my time," he said. "It's helped me not to be so selfish."

When Paula Cole, a Partners mentor, (CQ)cm moved to Colorado to work on her Ph.D. in economics, she missed the nieces and nephews she left behind. Getting involved with Partners helped to assuage her homesickness.

Now, she and her junior partner have become friends and have continued their partnership for over a year.

"It's helped me to relax and realize there's more to life than school," Cole said.

Cole also has benefited from the impact she's seen on her junior partner's life.

"At first, she was really struggling in school and her grades were low. We would work on homework together, and she was really excited when she got her last report card," Cole said. "It's great to see she's in a better position with school and enjoying it more."

Others similarly benefit from partnerships, according to a recent Partners survey of kids at the end of their partnership. The survey showed that 42 percent of kids improved in their school performance, while 65 percent improved their delinquent behavior, Sheele said.

"It's really great to see the changes they make, and the impact it has on their lives," she said.


Amber Baker can be reached at regional@collegian.com


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