http://mv-voice.com/print/story/print/2007/11/30/helping-kids-see-the-big-picture


Mountain View Voice

News - November 30, 2007

Helping kids see the big picture

Volunteers in 'Partners for New Generations' act as mentors to inspire local students

by Alexa Tondreau

In a young person's life, the smallest amount of interest and support can be influential. One-on-one attention in the form of lunch dates, trips to the park, baseball games, bike rides and just hanging out after school can make all the difference. Providing this attention is the mission of a local nonprofit called Partners for New Generations.

For 11 years, Partners has been pairing up mentors with children and teens in the Mountain View and Los Altos communities who need extra help to stay on the right path. For the first time this year, the organization is being included in the Voice Holiday Fund.

A lot of the children referred to the program come from single parent households and live in neighborhoods where drugs and crime are ever-present.

"These are kids who are all dressed up but they've got no place to go, and it's like that almost their whole lives," said Bob Adams, the fundraising chair for Partners, who himself worked as a mentor by coaching a boys basketball team at Alta Vista High School in Mountain View for 10 years. "They are prone to making very poor decisions," he said.

Partners for New Generations recruits and trains adult volunteers and matches them up with students who need the counsel and friendship. Current and retired Mountain View police officers, teachers and administrators, as well as numerous community members both young and old, have become involved with the organization, Adams said.

Part-time coordinators for Partners have been placed at Mountain View, Los Altos and Alta Vista high schools, and they carefully pair mentors and students based on interests and needs.

"If a student has an interest in cars, we'll pair them with a mentor who knows something about cars too," Adams explained.

While mentors can choose to take students on a variety of activities — one took a student flying in his plane, Adams said — the point of their meetings, which occur a minimum of twice a month, is for the mentor to help the student develop self-esteem and to foster his or her goals and aspirations.

"We wanted to establish a line of communication with these kids," Adams said, "because there wasn't one."

Marcos Amaya, a graduate of Alta Vista, has been meeting with his mentor, Jim Geers, for over two and a half years now. The two regularly get together for lunch, and Amaya said the friendship has provided an important outlet for him.

"He understands everything I say, and he really listens to me. I can relate to a lot of the things he tells me," Amaya said. "Sometimes it feels like he is an older version of myself."

Amaya said Geers has provided critical support in helping him get motivated to go to college. Geers brought Amaya to Foothill College, and sat with him as he met with advisors there.

"He opened my eyes to a lot of things," Amaya said.

Partners currently has 115 students and 110 mentors, and Adams said the organization is always looking for new mentors. Volunteers can also choose to be academic tutors in local elementary schools, working one-on-one or with a small group in reading, math and writing. And every year a few volunteers become child advocates with Santa Clara County through the help and guidance of Partners.

The organization prides itself on taking the time and effort to really get to know its volunteers and its students, so that the time they spend together is positive and enriching for both parties. However, the extra attention Partners spends getting to know its participants means more money spent on support staff.

Adams said funding for the organization comes from a variety of sources, including a number of service organizations in Los Altos and Mountain View, the Packard Foundation, the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District and numerous individual donors. Donations collected through the Holiday Fund will help support coordinators who work at the school sites, Adams said, and may open the possibility of expanding their services to full-time in the future.

"With the help we get from the community, we see ourselves being sustainable for the future," Adams said.

E-mail Alexa Tondreau at atondreau@mv-voice.com

Comments

Posted by Lyle Bickley, a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Dec 3, 2007 at 3:27 pm

I'm in my second year as a volunteer mentor associated with Partners for New Generations. I can say without hesitation that mentoring is a great opportunity - and it's a two-way street! It offers an opportunity for those of us who are "grown-ups" to share our wisdom, insights and time with high school kids. In return it gives us an opportunity to gain new insights and perspectives from the kids we mentor.

I would encourage anyone - particularly parents whose kids are grown up - to contact Partners for New Generations and volunteer to be a mentor. It's fun - and truly the veritable "win-win".

Lyle Bickley