Mentors needed to make a difference
December 31, 2012
For Gardnerville resident Susan Lippmann, mentoring a 10-year-old girl for the last three years has been the richest experience of her life.“I had been thinking about it and thinking about it, and finally I met her and felt like she needed another adult in her life,” the 60-year-old said. “My husband and I didn’t have children so having a little girl come into my life was a rich experience. We have created a bond that has been wonderful.”January is National Mentoring Month and Tahoe Youth & Family Services has a waiting list of children who need mentors in Carson Valley, South Lake Tahoe and Alpine County.To become a mentor, applicants must pass a background check, go through an interview process and complete training.“We match based on similar interests, and we match same-sex only,” said Alissa Nourse, TY&FS executive director and mentor. “If we had 1,000 mentors, we could match 1,000 kids. Every kid deserves a mentor it’s just a matter of adults stepping up.”Nourse, 41, and her husband mentor the two younger siblings of Lippmann’s mentee.“Having kids in your life is fun,” Nourse said. “You get to do all these things that you wouldn’t do like go to the library on a Saturday and hang out and read books.”“It doesn’t take a lot of effort to bring joy and excitement into their lives,” Lippmann said. Mentors are required to spend one hour a week with their mentee doing whatever activity they choose. They are also asked to give a one-year commitment to the program.“For the little boy that we mentor, we’ve seen such a change in him. He’s softened, he listens better, and he does better in school behaviorally. He knows he’s cared for unconditionally,” Nourse said. “For all three kids that consistency is really huge in their lives. Mentoring builds resiliency. They feel connected and cared for. They feel a sense of control in their lives. These are important in building strong people.”Once becoming a mentor, Tahoe Youth & Family Services offers ongoing support through its mentor coordinator, a monthly newsletter and group activities such as skiing, bowling parties, scapbooking parties and equine classes.“It’s also a great thing for mentors to hang out with other mentors,” Nourse said. “That fellowship time is really important.”According to Nourse and Lippmann, being mentors is not as scary as they first thought, and they have gotten as much from the relationships as their mentees have.“Somebody said to me, ‘think about someone in your life that mentored you.’ I had a grandmother, and I know what an impact she made in my life,” Lippmann said. “It takes less effort than we imagine, and the kids are so appreciative of that one-on-one attention.”For more information about becoming a mentor, call 782-4202, or visit http://www.tahoeyouth.org.