As featured in Burnsville Magazine

Doctors in the making?

The 2007 Hope For Tomorrow group toured Fairview Ridges Hospital to give the girls a feel for what type of medical careers are available.

A Match Made in ‘Hope’

A local mentoring program pairs successful women with teenage girls l By Susan Hegarty

    Most girls today don’t have time
to daydream about a fairy tale
life where their prince rescues
them from wicked stepsisters or a less-thanenchanting
life.
    Right here in Burnsville, there are girls
struggling to rebuke taunts, sexual advances or invitations to engage in criminal activity. They might have to hurry home from school each day to care for younger siblings rather than building social and employment skills through
after-school activities.
    These girls don’t need Prince Charming;they need opportunities like Hope ForTomorrow, a mentorship program that matches 14- to 16-year-old girls with a caring woman who is willing to share her own transformation from adolescent to successful,

“It’s important for
them to build self
confidence to stay
strong in their beliefs
and morals.”
—Renae Pereira, mentor

 

confident adult. The girls are nominated by the school counselors and principals, and participate on a voluntary basis. The program began in Bloomington in 1996 and was adapted in 2005 for Nicollett Junior High School in Burnsville. The program expanded to include Metcalf Junior High School.

    “These are the ones that can sometimes
fall through the cracks. They’re not at high
risk but it’s a formative time,” says Teresa
Daly, a founding mentor and managing
partner of Navigate Forward, an executive
transition service.
    The girls meet for three hours each month,
October through May, with their mentors at
their respective schools. Topics include peer
pressure, healthy body image, first impressions,
college and career options.
    One popular component is a journal passed
back and forth between each mentor and mentee.
They can write about anything. Mentors
write inspirational quotes, offer advice or share
stories from their own teenage years.
    “Journaling is a way for us to get a glimpse
into their thoughts and what’s going on in their

B U R N S V I L L E M A G A Z I N E Reprinted with permission of the publisher. ©2008 Metropolitan Media Group, Inc., all rights reserved.
Any reproduction of this document is strictly prohibited. For reprints call 952-767-2600.

life,” says mentor Renae Pereira of the
Dakota County Workforce Services.
“It’s another chance to bond and an
outlet for the girls. They know they
can do it in private.”
    The mentors and mentees take
two field trips each year: one to a
college and one to a business. Nicollet
Mentee Allie Henderson, 15, was
surprised by what she saw in this
year’s workplace visit to the Best Buy
corporate campus. “I didn’t know
that working could be fun,” she says.
    Prior to becoming involved in
the program, Hodan Jama, 15, of
Burnsville hadn’t given college a
thought. Now, she dreams of becoming
a doctor and opening a school in
her native Africa.
    Pereira has been a mentor for
the past two years. “It’s just such
a rewarding experience,” she says.
Pereira has two high school–age sons
but says the challenges facing girls are

different: “It’s important for them to
build self confidence to stay strong in
their beliefs and morals.”
    Darlene Miller, a founding mentor
and president of Permac Industries
in Burnsville, is now working to
organize a boy’s chapter with male
mentors and an electronic version
of the program to share with other
schools. Plus, she’s starting a Hope
For Tomorrow Web site and helping
expand the program to White Bear
Lake and Eden Prairie. “I truly love
this program,” Miller says.
    After a recent field trip, the girls
and their mentors were asked: If you
could do anything in the world and
money was no object, what would it
be? For Miller, the answer was easy.
“I’d go around the world setting up
Hope For Tomorrow.”


Susan Hegarty is a freelance writer for
Burnsville Magazine.

Beautiful Bellies > At the last hope for tomorrow session

of the schoolyear in 2008, the girls (and mentors) got a
belly dancy lesson.

Helping ‘Hope’
If you or someone you know might be interested in getting
involved with Hope For Tomorrow, contact Darlene
Miller at 952.746.0280 or dmiller@permacindustries.com.