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First Step offers after-school program for at-risk kids

| January 30, 2017

COSHOCTON – First Step Family Violence Intervention started an after school mentoring program in August 2015 where they mentored at-risk students in all three local school districts. This year, the organization is continuing the program, but needs more involvement from the community. If you would like to make a difference in a child’s life, contact First Step to inquire about becoming a mentor to one of the 60 students involved in the program. Currently, there are 30 mentors.

“All kids need to have a positive role model,” said Mindy Fehrman, director of Coshocton County Job and Family Services and a mentor in the program. “They all need adults in their life who value them, and they might not be getting the love and support they need at home. They need to just have someone there who listens and not judge them. I personally enjoy it (mentoring) and love hearing about what is happening in their life and their futures.”

The program is sponsored in part through the Community Connectors grant through Gov. Kasich’s office and is a three-year program involving students seventh through ninth grade. Students join the program in seventh grade and the mentor supports them for the next three years.

The Community Connectors grant is committed to programs that set goals for students to be college-ready and career-ready for the 21st Century. The grant is used for programs helping students build character, develop pathways to achievements, build a sense of resilience, and believe in a positive future.

“We were looking at what was needed in the community,” said Samantha Steed, on-site facilitator and supervisor of the program. “Our executive director, Vicki Laudick-Casey, used to work with Big Brothers Big Sisters and Robin Snider is our youth advocate and she saw there was a need in Coshocton County for something like this.”

The after-school program meets weekly at all three school districts: Tuesday at Ridgewood, Wednesday at River View, and Thursday at Coshocton. Each week, they focus on a different topic which can include arts and crafts, nutrition, exercise, suicide prevention, martial arts, anti-bullying, and even how to fill out resumes for college and jobs.

“The things we do with them gives us a better look of where they’re coming from,” said Suellen Husted, a mentor. “It’s been a real eye-opener for me and I really enjoy it.”

The program focuses on raising the student’s self-esteem, attendance improvement, and becoming more outgoing at school and in the community.

“This is a brilliant group of kids in so many ways,” said one of the mentors. “Watching the change in them has been really rewarding. We want to be here. We need to be here and they’re here for us too.”

Students are referred to the program who are considered at-risk, which includes those in foster care, those living in poverty, those who live in a domestic violence household, and those whose attendance has been poor. However, students do not have to be considered at-risk to join. Any seventh grader in each school district is welcome to attend.

The program begins at 3 p.m. and until 3:30 p.m., the student has one-on-one time with their mentor where they can talk about anything from school work to their home environment. From 3:30 – 4:30 p.m., a special guest speaker gives a brief presentation. The parents of the kids are given gas vouchers and the mentors also receive gas reimbursement.

“The adults are here because they want to be here,” said Snider. “They’re not here because they are getting paid. They really care about these students.”

The students also enjoy talking with their mentor.

“I feel like it’s a safe place,” said one of the students being mentored. “It’s a nice place to be and you get positive encouragement. You get to interact with a lot of kids and you have a mentor that will stick with you for a very long time.”

The adults also enjoy connecting with their student.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to connect with young people and share our experiences of life with them,” said Tim Kohler, mentor.

At the end of the year, the program has an awards ceremony where past presenters, mentors, and students receive participation awards. Parents of the students are also invited to the ceremony each year.

“Last year, we got a lot of positive feedback from the parents thanking us for the program because they had seen a difference in their child,” said Snider.

To become a mentor, contact First Step at 740-622-8504 and ask for Vicki, Robin, or Samantha. Mentors will have a background check completed and will receive a 16-hour training course from the staff. You must commit to a nine-month match with a student and volunteer once a week at the school district of your choice from 3 – 4:30 p.m.

“I just enjoy the kids,” said Jim Kent, mentor. “It’s been a long time since I was in junior high and it reminds me of the things from that time.”

For more information about the program, visit www.firststepcoshocton.org.

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About the Author ()

I have been employed at the Coshocton County Beacon since September 2009 as a news reporter and assistant graphic artist. I am a 2004 graduate of Newcomerstown High School and a 2008 graduate of Capital University with a bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing. I am married to John Scott and live in Newcomerstown. We have two beautiful daughters, Amelia Grace Scott and Leanna Rose Scott.

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