Program seeks mentors for students
In August, Kenosha Area Family and Aging Services Inc. hired Kathy Walter, 50, of Kenosha, to coordinate the mentoring program for the agency’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, which recruits people at 55 years old and older as volunteers to share their experience and skills with not-for-profit organizations.
The program recently received a $12,000 “Program of National Significance” grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service to increase the number of mentors.
Question: Tell us what you do as mentor coordinator?
Answer: It’s a really fun job. What I do is I’m really looking for people who are interested in becoming mentors and have a real desire to give back to the community, to be a positive role model and who want to see children become successful. Right now, the program is helping serve the students in the Kenosha Unified School District.
Question: Once you have someone who wants to be a mentor, what is the process they go through to become one?
Answer: Once I receive their enrollment/interest form, I call them, and the background checks are done by Kenosha Unified School District. Then, once it is approved, I call them and ask them where they’re interested in going to as far as the school they want to be at. I call the school counselor, schedule them for orientation and training, and we give them a starter bag. The district gives them a badge, and they meet with the students on site for about 30 minutes each week.
Question: How do you ensure that the mentors are a good fit? What types of things do you look for in a mentor?
Answer: We do look for people who have desire to give to others, who want to help. Some people are interested in gardening, reading, animals. We ask if you are interested in tutoring, going into the school with low readers or to help out with math.
They are placed at the school of their choice, or at least we really do try to match them. We focus on elementary and middle school students. Once we have a match, we talk to the school counselor, and we’ll talk about student issues, what the mentor wants to get out of it as well. Right now we’re also trying to formulate and improve some of the forms we have for expectations so that the volunteer mentor has more of an understanding of what they can do.
Question: Do mentors have to be from Kenosha?
Answer: No. They can be from anywhere, but right now we are working within the Kenosha Unified School District.
Question: Before you began your job at RSVP what did you do?
Answer: I was a pre-school teacher for four years, and I’ve worked with the elderly as an activity assistant. I was also a flight attendant working for United Airlines, but in 2004, I quit. I wanted to finish school. I graduated with my undergraduate degree in 2005 in psychology. And then I graduated with a masters of arts in psychology in 2008. Now, I’m also a Sunday school teacher. I volunteer for the Red Cross. My husband and I were volunteers for Meals for Wheels, and this is really where I started at KAFASI.
Question: How many mentors does RSVP have right now?
Answer: We have 31, and 12 of them are new this year. We’ve been given a grant to recruit 40 volunteers, and I’ve gotten 12 who are new so far. The children are really in need of mentors. The recruiting is actually going well. Even though we’re in Kenosha Unified, recently I gave a short presentation at First Assembly of God. They’re looking for grandparents to be mentors, and they were in need of a little assistance.
Question: What do you enjoy most about your job?
Answer: I love that it involves working with the elderly and the children. I like bringing the two together and bringing them together for a positive cause. The volunteers are such fun, and they have so much to give back. It’s nice because they’re so willing to do it, and I get to see how much fun they have.
Anyone interested in becoming a mentor can call Walter at 658-3508, ext. 120. For more information on the RSVP mentoring program, go to www.kafasi.org/RSVP.html.
Kathy Walter, RSVP mentor program coordinator, has helped to recruit 12 new mentors in the the three months she's been there.