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Holiday Fund: Mentors guide local youth to success

To Wilson Cay, the four words that best describe his relationship with his mentor are "motivation, encouragement, guidance and friendship."

"The first time I met him it was really quiet at first, but it was very easy to start talking to each other with how open he was," Cay recalled. "We would just talk about anything. It was comforting."

At the time Cay was a student at Mountain View's Alta Vista High School, a continuation school he attended after struggling at Palo Alto's Gunn High School. Cay is now a student at De Anza College.

Last week Cay was happy to report that "I finally figured out what I want to do," which is to become a physician's assistant, possibly a doctor -- "it's a possibility," he said. He added that "my grades have been straight A's."

Cay attributes some of his focus and success to his relationship with retired businessman Bob Adams, whom he met through Partners for New Generations (PNG), a mentoring program Adams helped to start with the local Rotary Club in 1996. PNG is one of several local nonprofits that benefit from the Voice's Holiday Fund.

"Each year we mentor roughly 100 students from the three high schools -- Alta Vista, Mountain View and Los Altos high schools," Adams said. "We are tutoring in the neighborhood of 300 kids a year" in local elementary and middle schools.

The relationships often last much longer than high school; some turn into life-long friendships, Adams said.

"I can safely say the adults get as much or more out of it than the students do," Adams said. "Normally adults don't reach out to kids unless they get paid for it, like a teacher. They don't meet many adults. It just gives them another experience, another outlook on life they wouldn't normally get."

Cay said that such a relationship makes his goals "more important," and he feels "more motivated to follow through" with them.

PNG is always looking for mentors and tutors -- adults who are "interested in working with kids, (who) have a little time. Tutoring takes about one hour a week; mentoring, about the same," Adams said, adding that a background check and some training is involved.

"It's been very helpful," Cay said. "Just having a friend who is always going to be there to help you out. He's helped me through a lot."

For more information, visit pngmvla.org.

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