×

Seeking volunteers

Student mentorship program looking for a few good people

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Mentor Janece Valentine and Adaline Neavin, a sophomore at Fort Dodge Senior High, pose for a photo recently. Valentine has mentored Neavin as part of the school district’s BRIDGES mentoring program since Neavin was in third grade.

The BRIDGES mentorship program through Fort Dodge Community School District is looking for community members to volunteer to mentor students.

BRIDGES was established by Corey Moody in 1994 to promote the “total well-being” of the district’s students.

The program serves students from kindergarten through 12th grade, said Moody, who is now the student services and case manager at Fort Dodge Senior High. Moody also still coordinates the mentoring program.

Moody works with the schools’ guidance counselors and teachers to identify students who could benefit from having an extra positive adult relationship in their life.

“We’re not trying to replace anybody, we’re just adding another positive person,” Moody said.

-Submitted photo
Tyson Preston, left, poses with mentor Beck Krough.

Currently, the program has about 100 mentors working with students in the schools, but the program could use many more, Moody said. The program is in need of volunteers to mentor elementary school-aged students, especially.

Mentors are paired with a student to work one-on-one, usually meeting about once a week during the school day.

“They might help them with their homework,” Moody said. “They might eat lunch with them.”

The mentorship pairs may also play games or just sit and chat during their visits — it’s whatever the student needs in that moment.

Moody works closely with the school counselors to match a mentor with a student. They look at what kind of mentoring the student needs and what similar interests the student and mentor might have.

“It’s hard sometimes, but we’ve had a lot of good matches,” Moody said.

The mentor and student matches stay together as long as each person wants to stay involved.

“We’ve now had matches that have started in second or third grade that have now graduated high school,” Moody said.

Adaline Neavin, a sophomore at FDSH, has been with her mentor, Janece Valentine, since she was in third grade. The pair meet usually once a week, sometimes even getting lunch together.

“We talk if there’s issues to talk about and she lets me know what’s right or wrong,” Neavin said. “She puts me on my path, helps me with my homework and then she takes me out for food when it’s a special occasion.”

Neavin and Valentine also send each other text messages when Neavin needs advice or just someone to talk to.

“I just know she’s a person, who if I need someone, I can run to her,” Neavin said. “I don’t have people at home like that. I don’t have people I can trust like I can trust her with my problems and my issues. She’s my person.”

Valentine said she feels she gets just as much out of the relationship that her mentee gets.

“A friend of mine had been mentoring and was telling me about it and it just sounded like something that was right up my alley in terms of the opportunity to volunteer and meet somebody special and be a part of somebody’s path, hopefully making a difference,” she said. “It’s been an awesome experience.”

Neavin said Valentine has helped her through really tough times in her life, from struggling with mental health to being a victim of bullying to times when she just needed an ear to listen.

“Just having somebody there is what I care about the most,” Neavin said. “Because nobody likes to be alone.”

Through the past seven years, Neavin and Valentine have created a life-long relationship.

“She’s forever in my heart,” Valentine said.

Moody hopes to see an influx of new volunteers that are much-needed to continue to grow the mentorship program and make an impact on the district’s students.

“I wish we could set up a mentor for all kids,” he said. “It’s just another positive role model.”

Moody feels confident in the Fort Dodge community stepping up to meet this need.

“This community has always been there when we’ve needed them,” he said.

Prospective volunteers just have to contact Moody to apply to mentor. They’ll go through a criminal background check and attend a training session with Moody to prepare them to be mentors.

“All of us could use somebody to talk to at some time in our life,” Moody said. “Having that consistent person coming in and being able to confide in that person is really important.”

Since the BRIDGES program first started 25 years ago, “we’ve seen the difference it makes,” Moody said. They track the grades, attendance and late arrivals at school of the students involved in the program, and Moody said they have found that overall, the students’ grades improve and they show better attendance and have fewer late arrivals, which educators call tardies.

“We are very thankful to have so many community volunteers to help us support, teach and advocate for our students,” said Kirsten Doebel, director of secondary education. “Our students who participate in this program reap many benefits from the variety of perspectives and talents our volunteer mentors possess.”

Valentine encourages any community member who has ever thought of being a mentor to take the initiative and volunteer.

“Get in the game, because it’s a wonderful experience and very enriching,” she said.

Community members interested in volunteering with the BRIDGES mentorship program, or who want more information on the program, can call Moody at 515-574-5469.