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.
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.