Mentors needed for First Step After School Program

| September 13, 2018

COSHOCTON – First Step is starting the fourth year of its after school mentoring program and is looking for more volunteers to join the team.

An informational meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25 at First Step’s new location, 647 Locust St.

“Mentors have to be consistent and willing to be there every week with the students,” said Robin Snider, youth prevention education coordinator.

The after school mentoring program is open to students in seventh through ninth grade at Coshocton, Ridgewood and River View schools. Coshocton’s meetings are held from 3 to 4:15 p.m. on Thursdays, Ridgewood meets at the middle school from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and River View meets at the junior high from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.

“We have students who were involved with the program for three years and now as sophomores want to give back and help out,” Snider said.

Mentors will need to fill out an application, have a background check done and go through a training.

“We want them to know how to handle any issues that may arise,” said Jessalyn Raber, on-site co-facilitator.

Vicki Laudick Casey, executive director of First Step, said they also discuss with volunteers what it means to be a mentor and about being judgmental. It also is explained to volunteers that no outside contact is to take place with the student they are paired with. They are not allowed to exchange text messages, e-mails or connect on social media.

Qualities First Step is looking for are people who are nonjudgmental and willing to listen to and understand where youth are coming from.

“We find that most kids want someone that will listen to them,” Raber said.

Casey agreed with her.

“It’s not about changing the child,” she said. “It’s about accepting them.”

The first half hour of the program is set aside for participants to have a snack and enjoy one-on-one conversation with their mentor. Then they have presenters who cover a variety of topics from martial arts to yoga to card making.

“We have a lot of cool, upbeat activities planned,” Raber said. “The kids have really looked forward to getting to do new things.”

The program runs from October to May and Snider said she has seen the kids’ self-esteem improve during that time. Raber added that she’s also seen many of the students become more sociable.

“I remember one young man who when we started said he was from the dark side,” Casey said. “He said his mentor wouldn’t like his music and he was dressed all in black. The mentor was very accepting and asked to listen to his music. Three years later he was in a dress shirt and tie and ready to interview for a job. He had a plan for after graduation and his future. I think each school district has its own stories like that.”

Anyone can join the after school program, but they first start with kids who are at risk for not graduating, are in foster care or have domestic violence in the home.

“We won’t shut the door on anyone though,” Raber said.

The after school program will start on the following dates: Ridgewood – Oct. 9; River View – Oct. 10; and Coshocton – Oct. 11.

One person who already can’t wait to join the kids at the program is First Step’s intern Odessa Gonter.

“I’m really excited to dive in and get to know the kids and help with the program,” she said.

Gonter is a student at the COTC Coshocton Campus.

“We appreciate COTC working with First Step and providing us with Odessa and her energy,” Casey said.

They also are appreciative of the Community Connectors Grant during the programs first two years and help from McWane Ductile, AK Steel, Job and Family Services, Kiwanis and Wal-Mart.

First Step is a United Way agency. For more on First Step and its after school mentoring program, call 740-622-8504.

Mentor testimonies

Tim Kohler: “This has been a great experience for me. The kids have given me as much as I have them and it gave me the opportunity to give back to the youth of the community.”

Suellen Husted: “When I first became part of the program, it seemed like it took a while for the kids to ‘warm up’ to the mentors. Now we seem to know each other, almost like family. We kid around, and know each other’s moods. We can talk about things and give our opinion to one another. I would like to think we are modeling appropriate adult behavior to our mentees.”

Katie Hultz: Katie believes mentoring is important to our youth and community “because so many kids fall through the cracks and don’t have any idea what they are going through. The after school mentoring program fills a gap in support for them.” She wishes there was a mentoring program like this when she was a child.

Frank Kline: “Every child is a gift from God and deserves to be treated with kindness and respect. If I can give that to one child, how awesome is that? Being a mentor is an honor and privilege! I get to hang out with the coolest kids! I believe I have learned more from them than they have from me.”

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Category: Education

About the Author ()

I started my journalism career in 2002 with a daily newspaper chain. After various stops with them, I am happy to be back home! I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1998 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2002 from Walsh University. I also earned several awards while working for daily papers, including being honored by Coshocton County’s veterans for the stories I wrote about them. I am honored and ready to once again shine a positive light on Coshocton County. I also am the proud mother of a little girl named Sophia!

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