Having a positive role model for a child is a game changer in life. Afterall, as many studies have shown, from birth to early adulthood (and sometimes beyond), kids mimic the personality and actions of those who they interact with on a regular basis. Partners of Douglas County knows this all too well and that’s exactly why they’re working hard to establish local ‘partnerships’ between kids, who may be at risk, and encouraging, adult role models.
DC Partners began in 2001, to combat a rise in negative behaviors they were seeing among local youth, ages 8 to 17. “The kids are usually identified by an outside source as a child in need of a mentor or role model,” said Jessica Franklin, Douglas County Partners Program Director. “Most kids, who often come from from single parent homes, are recommended by a social worker because they are making poor choices at school or have poor peer relationships.”
Because it’s a team effort to catch the child before they make a decision that will lead them down the wrong path.
Once they are identified as a good fit to enter the program, they are immediately put on a waiting list for an adult match with like interests. Sometimes, because of the ratio of adults in the volunteer pool vs. children in need of a role model, that wait is sometimes longer than expected.
“Finding mentors is a challenge because of worries about what it will cost and the time commitment that it takes,” Franklin commented. “But we provide a lot of help and support by assigning each partnership a case manager that follows them as the relationship grows.” Volunteer mentors not only have the support of the organization, but also of the parent, to aid in facilitating a positive relationship with the child.
Castle Pines resident, Tracy Nash, knows from the experience of having four different partners over the years, how important the friendship can become. “There are so many kids out there who need a mentor and it is very rewarding,” Nash continued, “I’m actually very excited that I will be seeing a former partner I have kept in touch with, who I haven’t seen in six years.”
And while there are a small percentage of girls in the program, the greater presence comes from boys needing someone to assume that pivotal role. “Many kids don’t have any male role models in their lives. There is an absence of Grandpa, uncles and other members who might have served as role models,” noted Franklin, “Either because they left or because of distance.”
Interested adults need only undergo a standard background check, fingerprint, interview and training, so they can get matched up with a child with like interests. “It’s a year commitment, 3 hours a week, however, our average partnership is 3 to 4 years,” Franklin smiled. “We have a lot of success of them staying together because we’ve made a good match and they’ve bonded. Many stay in contact with their mentors beyond their childhood years.”
Monthly recreational activities for partners are likewise organized by DC Partners and they participate in doing a community service project together. These activities are done in an effort to establish some normalcy in the child’s life, exposing them to day to day things we often take for granted. Franklin smiled, “We encourage them to do things like have a inexpensive meal together and talk or do activities like taking the dog for a walk.”
Because, as Nash can confirm, not only has assuming an important role improved the lives of those she’s mentored, but also her own. “It makes you feel good. It really is one of the greatest ways to make a difference in the world.”
For more information on the program or how to become a partner, please visit www.douglascountypartners.org or call (720) 733-1960.