The concept of mentoring is age-old. At one time in our nation’s history it was expected that a son or daughter would be tutored and trained in the necessary skills to survive and prosper in life. Over the decades we have seen the erosion of many family structures often leaving young people to figure out life on their own – often with destructive results.
Mentoring Tucson’s Kids is a one-on-one mentoring program that matches caring, Christian adults with youth or children. Men and women set aside four or more hours a month to care for a child that desperately needs an adult friend, a guide and a role model. Our mentors fill that gap for many kids who are growing up in an environment with few resources, bringing them the love of Christ. To be a good mentor a person does not need a great deal of training, but having a great heart for kids is the key.
Mentoring Tucson’s Kids, through its Director, Don McNeill, over the years has developed relationships with various community organizations that deal with children and youth. Many of the organizations are local schools. Others are the juvenile justice system and group homes, to name a couple. These organizations refer needy kids to M.T.K. when they feel that a mentoring relationship would be valuable to the young person.
M.T.K. targets young people ages of 5 through 17 who have at least one of the following risk factors:
- From a family with at least one parent in jail or prison
- Living in a single parent or group home
- Any type of police or court contact
- Evidence of substance abuse
- Lagging behind in school or has dropped out
- Living below the poverty line
- History of physical, emotional or sexual abuse.
Along with working with these organizations, we work with local churches, businesses and service clubs to find qualified mentors who are willing to spend a couple of hours each week with a young person. This is an ongoing challenge.
After locating qualified adult volunteers, each are trained and matched up with a youth (ages 5-17) who we feel would be compatible so that the relationship can be as productive as possible. We ask each mentor to make a one year commitment to maximize the impact of the relationship with the option to continue the relationship until the young person turns 18.
Mentors and their mentees build friendships while sharing a variety of activities like sporting events, going to church, doing homework or working on life-skill activities.
Each mentor is asked to report monthly on his or her activity with the young person so that we can properly supervise the relationship in coordination with the parent or caregiver of the youth.
To encourage activity, M.T.K. attempts to sponsor a monthly or bi-monthly activity for the mentors to bring their respective mentee. We do things, such as going to U. of A. games, an annual fishing trip, educational experiences and service projects.