Lake County Youth Mentor Program has three new volunteers helping youth in the community, with the Youth Mentor Program looking for more mentors throughout the region.
The Lake County Youth Mentor Program is similar to Big Brothers, Big Sisters programs in urban areas. The program pairs up an adult mentor with a mentee who is below the age of 18. Currently, there are only enough mentors volunteering in Lakeview for one-on-one mentoring.
The program in the past has had monthly team mentoring in North Lake and Paisley as there are not enough mentors for one-on-one meetings, but those meetings have taken a backseat due to COVID. Mentors and mentees meet once a week for one hour or more for a year, with the option to continue it for following years.
The three new mentors are: Breann Vandenberg, Michael Carter and Ken Kestner.
Carter is the superintendent for Lake County School District #7. He said he was involved with the Big Brothers, Big Sister program when he was living in Rainier. He noted the importance of being a role model in the community, and said he wanted to do something similar when he moved to Lakeview to take up the superintendent role. He spends time with his mentee attending softball and baseball games, as well as getting pizza and ice cream.
Vandenberg said the Youth Mentor Program is an awesome program and that it is great to provide mentees with a stable adult relationship. Mentors provide that stability and a safe space for them.
This is Vandenberg’s first time participating in a traditional mentoring program. She said being young helps her connect with her mentee and to offer a listening ear.
“It has been a good experience so far and I have excited to be with my mentee,” said Vandenberg.
She said the mentors get as much out of the program as the mentees do, and that it is a positive way help out area youth.
Kestner, who is a member of the Lake Health District Board and has been a Lake County Commissioner in the past, said he was approached by his friend Kathy Miles, previous executive director for the Lake County Youth Mentor Program, about becoming a mentor. The Youth Mentor Program is always looking for male mentors, as there are not enough adult men willing to be a mentor to young adult men. While Kestner was initially interested he felt that he did not have the necessary time to commit to being a mentor until recently.
“The purpose is to help young folks, to be their buddy who is outside of their family,” said Kestner.
He said that as a mentor he helps be a supportive ear for his mentee and provide a source of stability especially if the mentee is coming from a unstable situation.
“As a mentor you are being a sidekick for young boys in need of a sidekick — exhibiting the core values of being a mentor,” said Kestner.
For people who are interested but might not know what they would do with their mentee, Kestner said the Youth Mentor Program provides a list of activities. Mentors and mentees meet, and learn about their likes and dislikes and what the mentee likes to do, and then decide how they’ll spend their time together.
People interested in becoming a mentor can contact the Youth Mentor Program at 541-947-4880.