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It’s lunch time for Marie Vos, but she will not be taking her break to eat or run errands. Instead she will spend her lunch hour doing something much greater. Marie, like over a hundred other volunteers in Chautauqua County, uses her lunch hour once a week to mentor a student at a local school. Marie has been volunteering to mentor Riley, her mentee, since 2014 as part of Chautauqua Striders School Based Mentoring Program. And Marie knows that it’s really quite simple to do. “It’s just a half hour a week during the school year!” she exclaims. So many positive moments happen during that lunch when Marie is able to be an extra source of encouragement and support for Riley, offering her advice and guidance in regards to school, friends, family, and personal goals. Marie experiences benefits as a mentor as well. “I love having the opportunity to mentor Riley; she’s bright and funny. I know I receive more out of our friendship than I give.”
Marie was motivated to volunteer because she wanted to help. “Sometimes it seems like there is so much wrong with Jamestown, this country, the world. But I figure I could complain or I could do something about it.” She also sees mentoring as part of a bigger picture. “Our kids are our future. Mentoring a kid now affects her future, my future, everyone’s future.” Mentoring is a chance to give back to the community. “I have been so blessed in my life. I have to and I want to share those blessings. It’s how I live out my faith.”
Chautauqua Striders Mentoring Program focuses on mentoring relationships between positive adult role models and children in need of additional support and encouragement. Volunteers are asked to commit to a half hour a week to meet with a child on the weekends and evenings in the community or during the school day at lunch. Together they talk about school, friendships and plan for the future. Mentors are community members interested in giving back and wanting to help a child succeed. Volunteers are screened and trained by professional staff and are provided ongoing support throughout the length of the mentoring relationship.
The need for additional volunteers is tremendous. Melissa Paduano states, “Everyday when I am working in schools I see students’ faces light up at the idea of having lunch with a mentor. I sense that the idea of spending thirty minutes one-to-one with an adult chatting and playing games helps them feel recharged to take on the rest of their day, both at school and later at home.” At any time there are numerous students in Chautauqua County patiently waiting to be matched with a mentor.
It is amazing what just a half hour once a week can do to help shape the future of a child. Mentor one child, change two lives is more than a motto, it’s a fact. To find out how you can be involved or for more information contact Amanda Gesing, Director of Mentoring, at 716-489-3481, or Amanda@chautauqua-striders.org and visit us at chautauquastriders.org.