Be a mentor! The Connected Kids program is showing me how

josh hinnenkamp Northfield Mentoring Coalition

Last fall, Northfield Union of Youth Executive Director Josh Hinnenkamp posted a comment here on Locally Grown about youth drug use and it included these two paragraphs:

How can adults help with this problem of drug use? Going on a blog might teach you a few things, but [it] won’t fix a problem. The number one thing an adult in this community can do is BECOME A MENTOR. MALES MENTORS ARE ESPECIALLY NEEDED. This is not a lot of time and many studies have shown that this is very effective — life-changing effective. You can go here for more information.

I will end by saying that focusing on punishment does not equal care… Most users know there could be consequences and use anyway. Punishment is not very effective. Realistic education and forming good relationships is more so. So once again, to those who care, please check out this link on becoming a mentor. You can really make a difference by becoming a positive influence on someone’s life and prevent some of the things we have been reading about lately. Talk minus action equals nothing.

Josh’s words hit home and so I decided to check out the six different mentoring programs that make up the Northfield Mentoring Coalition. (Photo above is from their booth at this summer’s Northfield Night Out.)

I was drawn to the Connected Kids program, run by the Community Services Division of the Northfield Public Schools:

One to one relationships between students and caring adults. Matches meet at school before, during or after school hours and continue through the summer. Mentors provide academic support, encouragement, friendship and fun.

I liked the idea that the students and their parents are invited to participate.

Cheryl Strike and Coordinator Linda Otofingerprinting fingerprinting fingerprinting

In early August, I finally got around to making an appointment with the Connected Kids staffers, Mentoring Specialist Cheryl Strike (left in left photo) and Coordinator Linda Oto. They conducted a very thorough and fun interview, had me fill out a decent sized stack of forms, and told me to make an appointment at the Northfield Police Department to get fingerprinted. Having been arrested and fingerprinted earlier in my career, I was eager for another, less stressful experience. Piece o’ cake! (Not to worry about those rubber gloves on the police department staff person.  And no, I don’t have any missing/amputated digits, despite that right photo.)

I passed all my background checks (statute of limitations must have expired on that old misdemeanor!) so then it was just a matter of waiting till school started this fall before Linda and Cheryl contacted me about the student they wanted to match me with.

Yesterday, I met my mentee for the first time. I think we hit it off and I’m looking forward to our weekly get-togethers.

If you’re curious about the program, attach a comment here. And don’t hesitate to contact Linda or Cheryl… or contact me!


  1. Josh Hinnenkamp said:

    Did I say that? Well, good. I still mean it. I think this is a great post and I hope people can take advantage of it. We don’t care what your political affiliations, view on government, what you have to say about about the fall colors, etc. As long as you can pass a background test and seem like a caring individual we’ll try and find a match for you. An hour or two a week is all it takes. Over at the Key’s mentoring program, Main Street Mentors, we have just kicked off another year and hope that this will be our most successful yet. If you are interested in mentoring a middle school or high school youth please email

    Thanks Griff!

    September 22, 2008
  2. […] Northfield Public Library is a recruitment center for the Northfield Mentoring Coalition. I blogged about my becoming a mentor last fall for Connected Kids program. I continue to be impressed at how well it’s […]

    February 20, 2009
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    Calling local guys! Northfield News publisher Sam Gett has a column in today’s paper titled More mentors are needed for community’s kids.

    For all its success, the program needs
    additional adult volunteers. “We’ll
    consider anyone, but we have a
    shortage of males,” said program
    coordinator Linda Oto. Oto explained
    that the lack of male mentors is a
    nationwide problem; men are sometimes
    less comfortable assuming a nurturing
    role. Connected Kids expands that
    comfort zone through thoughtful
    planning and diligence on the front

    Linda and Cheryl run a tight ship. Impressive.

    April 8, 2009

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