The Marion Mentors 21 program is a collaboration of the Marion Family YMCA, Marion City Schools, Ridgedale and Elgin Local Schools, Boys and Girls Club, United Way of Marion County, and members of Marion’s faith-based community. The program is managed by Erin Slater, the YMCA’s director of mentoring.
According to Slater, the purpose of Marion Mentors 21 is to support the development of one-to-one relationships between a volunteer adult role model and a student. Volunteer mentors work closely with a school-based site coordinator to build a caring, supportive relationship with students.
“Mentoring matches are encouraged to support the development of a trusting, mutually satisfying relationship as the primary goal of their time spent together, and not for tutoring,” she said. “Mentors do not replace parents, they supplement the work of parents, teachers, counselors, and other social services and educational professionals to help the young person develop self- esteem and life skills necessary to become a happy and productive member of our community.”
The Marion Mentors 21 program, which began in 2015, is active in all eight buildings of the Marion City Schools. In 2018, two additional school districts were added, Ridgedale and Elgin. The program includes students in kindergarten through grade 12 who are recommended for the program by a teacher, counselor, school staff member, or a parent or guardian.
“What is unique about a mentoring relationship is the support and encouragement it provides, which can help a young person develop skills—academic, social, personal, and leadership—to foster success in the future,” she said, noting that the Marion Mentors 21 program is an effective way to improve students’ self-esteem and expand their vision of opportunities.
“Mentoring has significant positive effects on a student’s education, daily life, and future,” said program coordinator Erin Slater. “Our goal is to support long term relationships that start early in the students learning process and continue through graduation.”
Slater describes mentors as “any individual who has a strong desire to help students and who displays a personal commitment to be involved in a young person’s life, to respect individuals, to listen and accept different points of view, to empathize with another person’s struggles, and to see solutions and opportunities, as well as barriers.”
Mentoring sessions are held weekly at a site-facilitated location for 30-60 minutes, depending on location. The sessions are meant to be a fun, safe place for the student and mentor to play games, work on goals, and get to know each other.
“We have three school districts and the Boys and Girls Club as mentoring sites and we currently have 69 mentors,” said Slater. “There is a need for many more volunteers and, in fact, students ask when they will be getting a mentor! We would love to meet this need.”
The application process to become at mentor with Marion Mentors 21, which includes a screening, background check, and training, is explained in detail on their website at http://marionmentors.org/. In addition to Slater, United Way’s Leslie Schneider helps with mentor recruitment and trainings. She may be reached by calling 740-383-3108.
“Mentor volunteers and referred students each go through an interview and screening process to determine background, skills, and interests,” said Slater. “This information is used to match individuals with similar interests, background, or special skills—with an emphasis on what benefits the student.”