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Group in search of mentors for Tigard, Tualatin kids

Partnership hopes to match 50 kids with mentors through Big Brothers Big Sisters
by: Jaime Valdez, Tyler Shannon, 15, swings at a golf ball with his mentor Cody Everett. A new program hopes to add more mentors in Tigard and Tualatin this year.

Cody Everett is Tyler Shannon's big brother, in more ways than one.

The two barely know each other, having met less than a month ago, but watching the two interact together, you would think they were old friends.

Everett, 25, smiles as Shannon, 15, hits a golf ball at Tualatin Island Greens golf center on Sunday. It's the first time Tyler has been to a driving range, and Everett showed him how to swing the club.

'He was having fun,' Everett said afterward. 'He wants to go back this weekend.'

Everett is there as a male role model for Tyler through Big Brothers Big Sisters, which pairs adult mentors with children who could use a positive role model in their lives.

As a mentor, Everett is there to help encourage Shannon and give him support he might not find other places.

'He texts and calls whenever he's bored because he knows that I am there,' Everett said. 'We are very comfortable with each other, like true brothers.'

Everett and Shannon are one of the newest pairs at Big Brothers Big Sisters, and are one of the first matches as part of a new program to increase mentoring opportunities in Tigard and Tualatin.

Known as the Tigard-Tualatin Mentoring Partnership - a joint partnership with the Tigard-Tualatin School District, Tigard Police Department, area churches and Big Brothers Big Sisters - the new program is working to match new adult mentors with kids in the Tigard and Tualatin communities.

'Times are hard for many families in our community, and parents cannot always be there,' said Colossae Church youth minister Sean Page. 'That's where mentoring can make all the difference. Sometimes kids just need someone to talk to, have fun with, to hang out and do stuff with. We know this matters.'

The idea is simple: Spend one hour a week with a child who needs a strong role model.

It's the kind of program Everett said he wished he had as a child growing up in Southern California.

'When I was at that age, I was a troubled teen,' he recalled. 'Now, to be there for someone who could stay out of trouble because of my mentoring would be awesome. I got into a lot of trouble at that age, and to be able to say, 'Hey, I've been through that' and be there for someone who wants my advice is just great.'

Everett has wanted to become a mentor for years, but it wasn't until Big Brothers Big Sisters came and asked his church to join the Tigard-Tualatin Mentoring Partnership that he got the push he needed to sign up as a mentor.

Now, he says, he's hooked.

'I wish I could be a 'big' to several kids, not just one,' he said. 'It's just so awesome and rewarding.'

The partnership began months ago when members of Tigard-Tualatin School District's Safe Schools/Healthy Students project saw there was a growing need for positive role models in the community.

'Times have become more tough for families,' said Susan Salkield, Safe Schools/Healthy Students project director. 'That is increasing the number of kids in the community that could use some support.'

Working with the police department and local church groups, the forming partnership began to talk about how useful more adult mentors in the community would be, and contacted Big Brothers Big Sisters, Salkield said.

'This was a way to come together and support kids with our time and commitment,' Salkield said.

Big Brothers Big Sisters has been matching mentors with kids in Tigard and Tualatin for years, but often the need went unnoticed by most people, said Chabre Vickers, Big Brothers Big Sisters' community relation director.

'In Tigard and Tualatin, where the need may not be something that's highlighted, you often have an invisible group of folks that are often out there,' she said. 'There is a need, but often the services that do exist in the area aren't as plentiful as they are in Portland.'

Through the partnership, Salkield said leaders hope to match 50 children in the school district with new mentors.

Children are referred by school counselors to Big Brothers Big Sisters, which works to find a match in the community for them.

'When I approached (school councilors) about starting, they said, 'We have a list, we've been dying for a mentoring program,'' Salkield said.

Community support was key to making the new partnership successful, Vickers added.

'Having all of the partners coming together ... that's where it needs to start,' she said. 'If it doesn't start there, it can still work, but we need to be able to tackle a large number of folks - that is what is needed.'

With kids waiting, Vickers said there's just one piece missing. 'We just need people to come forward and be mentors.'



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