Mentors see success of being good example

Karen Ferriera lost her husband a few years ago, leaving her to raise her 12-year-old son, Champ.

He's a good kid, she said. But she thinks he needs another person besides his mother in his life.

"I'm not looking for a father for my son; he just needs a role model," Ferriera said.

Ferriera was in the right place Thursday night. She joined 70 other Carson City residents at a dinner to discuss the creation of a community mentoring resource center.

Carol Toohey of Carson City attended the meeting because she is interested in volunteering as a mentor.

"I see a lot of lost kids in this town who need someone," she said.

There are several programs in Carson offering mentoring in one form or another, but members of the Mentoring 2000 Task Force of the Carson & Douglas County Leadership Alumni want to create mentoring center and hire a full-time director that would coordinate all the programs by January 2000.

The group would have no control of the center after that, they just want to be ones to get the ball rolling.

Thursday's workshop and dinner was an informative meeting on what mentoring is and how it benefits communities. It was an attempt at creating community awareness, not an attempt to hammer out the logistics of a mentoring program, said Community Council on Youth board member Linda Lang.

Lang and Jill Tingey from the University of Nevada's Cooperative Extension office presented the mentoring plan to the group. They said for a mentoring program to be complete, it needs to be a coordinated. They defined mentoring basically, as one caring adult matched with a child working towards a goal of some sort.

Lang pointed out the idea for a mentoring problem has been kicked around in Carson City since at least 1995.

"It's something that gets talked about and then goes away," she said. "We can sit and talk forever but Carson City is continually putting out little brush fires all over. For those fires not to start again, we need a program that will stop that."

Many people, like Nevada Hispanic Services Director Raquel Knecht, represented groups looking for mentors. Nevada Hispanic Services runs a group mentoring program called One on One, but Knecht said the creation of a mentoring center would help get kids and volunteers in a true one-on-one situation.

"I think the concept of a mentor center to channel mentors off to other centers is great," Knecht said. "We have no lack of mentees. Most kids want to know they're as important as anyone else. A mentor says, 'You can do it and I'm here to help.'"

Ron Kendall, chairman of the Mentoring 2000 Task Force, said the program will take about $150,000 to start and the group is asking for Carson City, Carson-Tahoe Hospital, the Carson City School Board and Western Nevada Community College to help pick up the costs.

"I have great faith that our elected officials are going to do the right thing," Kendall said. "If you have a lot of public support for it, (the elected officials) are empowered to support it. It's much easier when there is a groundswell of people saying, 'Yeah, let's do this.'"

Lang announced at Thursday's meeting that the Community Council on Youth received a grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention for $90,400. About $45,000 is earmarked for a mentoring program. The money can be used to hire a director, but more work is needed on putting the program together. Building half a program would lead to failure, Lang said.

"This is exciting. It's a start," Lang said. "We need key agencies that believe in the mentoring concept to finish the budget.

"I don't see why in a city of 50,000 we can't make this happen. We're not talking about millions of dollars here. If it doesn't come to fruition now, we must not need it. I see this as a now or never time."


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