Tuesday, January 5, 2016

WANTED: Heroes for Kids

Local boys and girls are looking for heroes.

Children have been referred to the Bergen Volunteer Center’s Mentoring Youth program, which, for more than 30 years, has trained and supervised adult volunteers to serve as mentors to children, age 5 to 18. Youth are confronted with adverse challenges, at home and in life, and are experiencing social, emotional and behavioral problems. Mentors serve as positive role models; provide guidance, friendship and support; and advocate on behalf of children when necessary.

The next 3-week Mentoring Youth training program begins on Wednesday, January 27, 2016. Sessions run on consecutive Wednesday evenings, and trainees must attend all sessions for successful completion of the training. The training will run from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm at the Volunteer Center of Bergen County, 64 Passaic Street in Hackensack.

“Volunteers in the Mentoring Youth program improve the lives and experiences of children who need someone they can trust, someone to show them they are not alone,” says Lynne Algrant, Volunteer Center CEO. “There is an especially great need for men to mentor boys and for bi-lingual, Spanish speaking mentors of both genders, and there are not nearly enough volunteers enrolled so far.”

“These children are waiting for someone to step in and believe in them, to encourage them to laugh and succeed,” says Dr. Faith Samples-Smart, Director of the Mentoring Youth Program. “We consider time spent with mentors as free time: free of the challenges children confront in their daily environments at home and/or at school. What a gift to have this respite and safe zone with a caring adult.”

Mentors show children a different perspective, expose them to unexplored opportunities and help them to build trust. According to a study by Big Brothers/Big Sisters, youth who regularly meet with a mentor are 52% less likely than peers to skip school and 46% less likely to use drugs. Additionally, they are 33% less likely to hit someone or to start drinking. By sharing fun activities and exposing a youth to new experiences, mentors encourage positive choices, promote high self-esteem, support academic achievement and introduce young people to new ideas.

Mentoring Youth volunteer training is provided at no charge and covers such topics as the benefits of mentoring for volunteers and children; child and adolescent development; understanding child maltreatment; effective listening and communication skills; building rapport and developing strong mentoring relationships; the role of the mentor; and the matching and closure process. Applicants are required to undergo a comprehensive background check and must obtain written letters recommendation as part of the training course.

For more information about the Mentoring Youth program, please contact Eva Tobias at (201) 489-9454 x-209 or visit the Mentoring Youth page onllne.

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