National Mentor Month: From mentor program to college, and back again

Note: The Nevada Appeal, with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Nevada Mentor Center, are honoring local mentors in January, National Mentor Month.

In 2002, a 13-year-old student talked with her school counselor at Eagle Valley Middle School about her rather chaotic home life. She was wondering about getting a mentor, someone she could talk to, spend time with and receive encouragement from.

This young lady, Leah Taboada, was the first mentee to complete the Mentor Center program of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Nevada and go on to graduate from the University of Nevada, Reno.

At the time, EVMS counselor Cherie Gavuzzi directed Leah to the Mentor Center of Western Nevada where she was matched with volunteer mentor Lynn Parrish. Lynn and Leah quickly developed a great friendship. They spent time each week together for the next five years doing a variety of things, from camping and fishing to playing games and shopping. Lynn's husband Rich often joined them on their outings or to various Mentor Center group functions.

Leah's sister Katrina had been included occasionally in their activities so it was a natural move to match Katrina with Lynn when Leah was ready to move on.

In June of 2007, Leah was attending UNR and decided to become a mentor herself. She was taking a full load of classes and working at The Fleischmann Planetarium but felt she still had time to give. Leah was matched with 11-year-old Michelle, and the two have formed a close bond. Michelle and Leah spend time every week talking or just hanging out.

Leah has already accomplished so much. As the first mentee to graduate college, and the first mentee to become a mentor herself, Leah is an inspiration to all.

• Bridget Gordon is the outreach specialist for the Boys & Girls Clubs Mentor Center.


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