New mentor center director off and running

After a little more than two weeks of work, Susan Edwards already has grand goals for Carson City's new mentoring program.

Edwards was hired by the Boys & Girls Club and the Community Council on Youth to be the director for the Mentor Center of Western Nevada. Wasting no time, she's already contacted any potential volunteers who hinted at wanting to help during the yearlong process to bring a mentoring program to the capital.

Her ambition for the program: to make this program a national model.

Community members spearheaded by the Community Council on Youth and The Mentoring 2000 Task Force of the Carson City and Douglas County Leadership Alumni, started in October 1999 looking for community support to start the program.

Their efforts led to Carson City, the Carson-Tahoe Hospital Board of Trustees and the Carson City School Board each pledging $15,000 a year for two years to help kick-start the program. Western Nevada Community College committed in-kind cooperation by donating office space and supplies.

"I'm very pleased with our selection," said Ron Kendall, chairman of the Mentoring 2000 Task Force of the Carson & Douglas County Leadership Alumni. "She has hit the ground running, and that's good because she has a lot of work to do."

Kendall said during the process to get the center started, there were times he wondered if it would get done.

"It feels really good to see something you've worked on for so long come to fruition," he said. " But the real good feeling will come when we see mentors matched with mentees.

"The other thing that feels really good is that so many people came together to make this happen. It wasn't any one person. It shows that if you find the right goal and articulate it, people will get behind it and make it happen."

The Boys & Girls Club of Western Nevada was chosen to steer the program. A 14-member advisory committee has also been formed to make sure the community that helped start the program stays informed of its progress.

"What impresses me is what made it possible to do this," Edwards said. "Carson City is an amazing community with what they've done. It's almost like I have the glamor job. Everything was laid out for me. It's terribly impressive what a group of volunteers did."

Her job isn't all that glamorous. She's starting from scratch to build the program, which aims to pair children with a caring adult from the community. Edwards comes to Carson City with mentoring and counseling experience peppering her background.

"I have been interested in the concept of mentoring for a very long time," she said. "Mentoring can make a positive impact on some high risk kids. I just can't say enough about the positive impact the mentee has on the mentor and vice versa. It's a mutually growing experience."

As a mentor, she learned everything from the popular rap groups and how to bowl better to getting an update in youth slang.

Her qualifications run beyond mentoring and other volunteer activities into organizational development and counseling.

Cathy Blankenship, Boys & Girls Club executive director, said at least 35 people applied for the position.

"On paper there were several people who seemed close," Blankenship said. "During the interview process it became evident she had very specifically the qualifications we need in Carson City. She is very self-motivated, very independent. Every little piece made her a natural fit to do this. I was stressed she wouldn't take the job because with her background, she could take a job somewhere else that pays more. You do things like this because of a commitment, though, not for money."

The program is in its fledgling stages and should be serving students by this fall, Blankenship said.

Seminars on how to help with the program will be Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. and Thursday, May 4 from 12:15 p.m. to 1 p.m. at the Western Nevada Community College Lecture Hall No. 103.

"We want to provide an opportunity for anyone in the community to volunteer at any level," Edwards said. "We need everything a start-up company would need. Anybody interested, even if it's just to work for a couple hours a month, is encouraged to attend."

If you go:

What: Mentor Center of Western Nevada volunteer information seminars

When: Tuesday, 7 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. and May 4, 12:15 p.m. to 1 p.m.

Where: Western Nevada Community College, Lecture Hall #103, 2201 W. College Parkway.

Call Mentor Center Director Susan Edwards at 446-3346 for information.


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