by Melissa A. Collett
The La Verne Mentor Program provides more than just a role model for children, it also provides friends along with many opportunities the child may not already have.
The program will feature ULV students as role models for chosen fifth through eighth graders from the Bonita Unified School District.
The Bonita Unified School District, City of La Verne, and University of La Verne are working together along with the Red Ribbon Committee and a $2,500 grant to get the program started.
The program started as an idea of the Red Ribbon Committee. The committee wanted a program in La Verne for younger “at-risk” students.
“We want to help the students in school to perform better academically (and) give them opportunities that they might not have access to, like the movies or sporting events,” said senior Todd Blickenstaff, ULV coordinator and student intern for the program.
The children are recommended to be in the program by their principal, teacher or other staff member. There are five grammar schools and one middle school in the district. The goal of the Red Ribbon Committee, according to La Verne Police Chief Ron Ingels, is to have enough mentors to allow five or six students from each school to participate in the program.
A mentor would spend at least two hours a week and one Saturday a month with the child. Two hours is only a minimum, said Ingels. It is enough to make a difference, but it can be more.
Any ULV student can be a mentor. The program needs people “who are willing and able to help and to make the time commitment,” said Blickenstaff. There are no interviews involved. Any one who is interested can fill out an application and attend the volunteer training session in Founders Hall on September 28 at 3 p.m. Those who cannot attend the meeting can contact Todd Blickenstaff or Marilyn Blincow through the La Verne Police Department.
What can you get by becoming a mentor? “A great deal of satisfaction. It’s a very rewarding experience,” said Blickenstaff. Each mentor is assigned one child. Two hours a week will be enough to easily see the changes in that child throughout the year compared to a group of children, said Blickenstaff. Just taking the time to help one child with his/her homework, and being there for them and caring can make a difference for child.
Each week when the child and mentor meet, they decide if they just want to talk, have a tutoring session, or participate in a group event. The mentor and child meet in Veteran’s Hall every Monday. One Saturday a month the group participates in activities such as movies, bowling, sporting events, community service and an amusement park.
The main focus of the program is to help students stay out of trouble before they get into it, and to stay in school. “It is more (of) a prevention program than a rehabilitation (program),” said Blickenstaff.
“We can’t prevent everybody from getting into trouble but we can help some people.”