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Want to change a life – become a mentor

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
When the Elizabethton City Council meets on Thursday evening, one of the first pieces of business will be a proclamation made to recognize the month of January as the 19th anniversary of National Mentorship Month.

One may ask what exactly is mentorship and to describe it, in a nutshell, would simply mean to give of one’s self to make a major life-changing impact on someone else.

Jilian Reece of Carter County Drug Prevention and a member of the program’s steering committee took time to discuss the program which was created over a year ago to help the youth of Carter County and surrounding areas.

“We are really fortunate to partner with the City of Elizabethton Parks and Rec to receive a grant from the National Recreation Parks Association to start this mentoring program in Carter County,” Reece said.

“At the time, we knew that the need was there, but we kind of created this program from the ground up in many ways, and what we have seen is that kids really just need somebody to be a safe and stable nurturing person in their life.

“We started this program and began matching so that anybody in the community or around our community even that is seven to 17 we match them with adults.”

The program is set up so that mentors and mentorees can meet once a week. The match is for a full year so those who are assigned a mentor will have interaction with them for a full year.

Reece said that the program carries tremendous value in so many ways.

“To me, the biggest reason that it’s important is that we know that childhood trauma and things that happen to us as a child can affect us for our entire lives,” Reece added.

“Research shows that just having stable, nurturing adults whether it’s parents or youth ministers or mentors or whoever it is — just having those people just negates the effects of that childhood trauma.”

No one really knows the impact they can have on the life of a child — especially those that are going through trying times in their life. For that reason, entering the program is something that can be looked at as a ministry and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

“Sometimes I think what mentors don’t understand is that they are impacting kids right now but you are also changing their life in many ways,” stated Reece.

“Just having that person check on them once a week can really impact the way things have happened and affect them the rest of their lives.”

When asked to give an illustration of how the mentorship program in Carter County has helped those who find themselves in need of a strong adult mentor, Reece was quick to point out the interaction of the program with the court system.

“We love working with the Juvenile Court and really that is where we have seen a lot of progress,” commented Reece. “Kiddos that come to us on probation or come to us from the court system, just really struggling with a lot of different things, who have been able to come off probation after having a mentor.

“Mentors have been able to report to the court system that their kiddos have been thriving in school and in their social environment is one of the biggest places that I seen them impacted.

“We meet them in the courtroom and then looking at them a year later, I think that’s really a good example of the way the mentorship program works.”

Right now, the program is in immediate need of mentors who are willing to help impact the life of a young person. There is an abundance of kids waiting for someone to take the initiative to step forth and say, “Yes, I want to help impact the life of a young person.

“We need more mentors for sure. We actually have a waiting list of kids ready to be matched. We have shifted everything to a virtual platform so that people can do training from home on their own time,” Reece added.

“They just have to reach out to Shannon who is our mentorship coordinator at his email elizabethtonmentors@outlook.com.

“They reach out to him and he will send them the training. He will get back with them, get a background check, and get them matched. We need folks desperately.”

One of the best parts of the program is the extensive time is taken to make sure to match mentors and mentorees together in a way that both enjoy their time doing things together or talking about.

“Shannon does a really amazing job of matching people based on interest. We don’t want to have a kid who is interested in cars be matched with a lady who is interested in makeup,” Reece said with a chuckle.

“We have mentors and mentorees that work out together or go hiking and fishing together. We want to match them with someone that they can enjoy spending time with.”