Sunday, March 19, 2017

Heroes Wanted: Local Youth in Need of Mentors

Each year in Bergen County approximately 600 children are removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect or other factors that place them at risk of harm. These children are placed in foster homes, residential facilities, hospitals, shelters or in the care of other family members. The Bergen Volunteer Center’s Mentoring Youth program is currently recruiting volunteer mentors to work one-on-one with youth between the ages of 5-21 who are facing these difficult challenges.

For 40 years, Mentoring Youth has trained and supervised adult volunteers to serve as mentors to youth confronted with adverse social, emotional and/or behavioral challenges at home or in their daily lives. Mentors serve as positive role models; provide guidance, friendship and support; and advocate on behalf of youth when called upon to do so.

The next 3-week Mentoring Youth training will begin on Wednesday, April 19, 2017. Each session is held from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm at the Bergen Volunteer Center.

“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. There are not nearly enough volunteers enrolled so far.”

“These children are waiting for someone to step in and to believe in them, to encourage them to laugh and to succeed,” says Dr. Faith Samples-Smart, Mentoring Youth Program Director. “Time spent with mentors represent opportunities for youth to experience the world from a different vantage point and to build memories of happy times in spite of obstacles in their lives. What better than the simplicity of childhood?”

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. Additionally, training specifically addresses the needs of youth in the foster care system. 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, contact Eva Tobias at (201) 489-9454 x-209, or visit and click on Mentoring Youth.

The Bergen Volunteer Center turns caring into meaningful action by engaging volunteers to meet community needs.

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