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Youth mentoring program makes dramatic changes to meet local needs

They have seen some dramatic changes over the last couple of years including a name change and disaffiliation from a former parent organization, but by all reports these changes have been carefully orchestrated to have positive effects on the mentoring program in Prineville.
   The mentoring program, which operates under the Family Resource Center's direction matches Crook County youth with mentors as positive role models. Family Resource Center Board of Director's chair, Marta Hudson, indicated that the move away from the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program which happened about 18 months ago, was made only after serious consideration on the part of the board.
   She explained that as a satellite program, the local office often fell through the cracks. "There are two Big Brother/Big Sister programs in Oregon, one centered in Portland and the other in Bend. The Bend office serves a huge region including Eugene, Bend, John Day and Prineville. Obviously when you have satellite offices spreading across such a vast region, the smaller programs don't get the attention and dollars they need." The local mentoring program was affiliated with Big Brother/Big Sister for about four years. Over that time it became evident at the local level that it would be more advantageous for this community to have a locally based mentoring program. "We have been working towards our own independence, which means developing our own bylaws, securing funding and obtaining a nonprofit status," she said. "... an arduous process which we are very proud to say we have recently achieved."
   Although the funding for the program has worn a bit thin over this period of growth and restructuring, causing the loss of a contract coordinator, the board has moved in and split the day-to-day responsibilities in the meantime.
   Funding through grants and donations will be possible under their new nonprofit status, which was achieved with the help of local attorney Laura Cooper who donated time and expertise toward the effort. The organization now looks forward to receiving some long anticipated funding as soon as March, and up to 12 other grants are being drafted seeking additional dollars.
   The structure for the new One-to-One Mentoring program has been built based on successful mentoring programs from other communities and tailored to meet the needs of our own unique community. "Our problems, recreation and opportunities are different from other communities, and the One-to-One Mentoring program is put together with those issues in mind," she said.
   With an estimated 20 matches between mentors and area youth, and about 50 people involved in some capacity, the One-to-One Mentoring program is meeting a real need in this community.
   "As far as the program goes, I don't think anybody can say we dropped the ball anywhere," she said. "As a board we really look forward to finishing up the details of creating policies and procedures, and gaining a full-time staff person to carry on the intentions of the program."
   The mentoring program offers an opportunity that matches a youth with an adult who can provide a fun, safe and confidential relationship which that child can rely on and use as an emotional resource.
   "The mentors' main priority is that they like children because many of the youth in the program are often at-risk and need a stable role model in their life," she said. "There is also a youth mentor aspect to the program which we are very proud of, and couldn't have incorporated under the Big Brother/Big Sister umbrella. We currently have five high school mentor applications which are going through the initial processing and three of those will be entering the program in the next few weeks."
   For more information on the One-to-One Mentoring program or to volunteer, call 416-0924.