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Local mentoring program marks three decades of providing quality mentoring to Summit County youth
Shawna Gogolen, Mountain Mentors Program Supervisor
SUMMIT COUNTY – January is National Mentoring Month, and this year’s annual spotlight on the value of mentors carries special significance locally. Summit County’s Mountain Mentors is celebrating 30 years of success, dating back to the program’s inception in 1987. Mountain Mentors is marking the milestone by thanking the hundreds of mentors who have volunteered for the program over the past three decades.
“Over the past 30 years, mentoring has built so much momentum here, in large part because of our great volunteer mentors and community support,” said Robin Albert, director of Summit County Youth and Family Services. “Mentoring is a critical part of developing positive relationships within our community, and it’s proven to have a positive effect on academic, social and economic outcomes for our young people.”
A research study conducted by the State of Colorado in the summer of 2016 showed that an estimated $1.72 of future economic cost is avoided for every $1 invested in Mountain Mentors. In 2016, the local program’s volunteer mentors invested an incredible 4,704 hours of individualized volunteer time. Mountain Mentors currently supports 49 Summit County youth matched with a volunteer mentor.
“We’re really proud of this program, and we’re so grateful to all our mentor volunteers,” Mountain Mentors Program Supervisor Shawna Gogolen said. “But, with 65 students currently on the waitlist for a mentor, we still have more work to do.”
Demand for the program continues to grow, with student referrals almost doubling from 27 in 2014 to 53 in 2016.
“The best thing about having a mentor is getting to spend time with him and getting to go explore different places in Summit,” mentee Alexiss Razo said. “It’s also great having a mentor because you can share opinions and help each other in different ways. You can show your mentor how you do things in a different way and learn as you spend time together, having lots of fun and trying new things. What’s also awesome about having a mentor is that you have each other’s backs – what I mean by that is encouraging each other, having confidence and never giving up, even though it’s hard to keep on trying new activities.”
Research shows that mentors can play a powerful role in providing young people with the tools to make responsible choices, attend and engage in school, and reduce or avoid risky behavior like drug use. In turn, these young people are 55 percent more likely to be enrolled in college, 81 percent more likely to report participating regularly in sports or extracurricular activities, 78 percent more likely to volunteer regularly in their communities, and more than twice as likely to say they held a leadership position in a club or sports team.
Yet, the same research shows that 9 million young people in our country will grow up without a mentor. National Mentoring Month each January allows for engagement from community members interested in becoming a mentor. This year, with the support of the larger mentoring community, Summit County is encouraging the public to become involved in making a real-life impact.
“Mentoring relationships are at their best when connections are made between a caring adult and a young person who knows that someone is there to help guide them through those real-life decisions,” Gogolen said.
With that goal in mind, Summit County resident Gini Bradley helped start Mountain Mentors back in 1987.
"It’s hard to believe that Mountain Mentors is having its 30th anniversary,” Bradley said. “It seems like only yesterday that Joe Johnson and I were struggling to manage 15 pairs of adults and kids. The program has grown in so many positive ways and impacted so many children through the years. While the staff, mentors and children have all changed, the basic tenet that spending quality time with children can have a lifelong impact has never changed. A huge thank you to everyone in Summit County who has ever volunteered to be a mentor. And for those thinking about being a mentor, DO it!"
Ways to get involved:
For more information about Mountain Mentors, including how to volunteer, visit www.SummitCountyCO.gov/mentor, or contact Shawna Gogolen at 970-668-9182 or Shawna.Gogolen@SummitCountyCO.gov.
Mountain Mentors is a proud affiliate of The Colorado Mentoring Partnership.