By True Grimes
Eighth-graders will usually have at least one adult in their family. Maybe even two.
But when an adult outside of their family takes the time to be a mentor to them, that is pretty powerful stuff, says Central Middle School counselor Stephanie Bender.
That’s why the “Hope for Tomorrow” mentor program is in need of Eden Prairie women to step up as mentors at the middle school at 8025 School Road.
“It’s a minor commitment of only one morning per month and the girls really appreciate having another woman in their lives,” said local “Hope for Tomorrow” co-founder, Diane Nettifee. “Last year we had to turn girls away.”
Nettifee and Geri Martin started the ‘Hope’ chapter at CMS in 2008. Just one year earlier, Nettifee, the president of Magis Ventures Inc., got involved in the Burnsville chapter.
Its mission is to work with young people before they leave for high school.
“That can be a particular difficult time to transition,” said Martin, who’s had two kids go through CMS. “You go from being the oldest kid to the youngest kid in the school.”
It helps young people think about what they want for their future, adds Martin, a healthcare marketing consultant.
Nettifee remembered her junior high gymnastics coach, saying, “Her presence in my life made such a difference because she believed in me.”
The ‘Hope’ sessions start with get-acquainted exercises. The girls get to know peers they may not have known before. There’s group time with discussions. Each session has a theme.
For example, the high school drama group did skits about peer pressure. There was a gathering on body, mind and spirit and caring well for oneself at all levels. A guest speaker came in then to do yoga and kickboxing.
Other topics ranged from first impressions and how to present oneself to etiquette, dreams and goals. The field trips got the mentees to think beyond high school. The group toured Quality Bike Products in West Bloomington. When they went to the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, it was the first time some students had even set foot on a college campus, Martin said.
The counselors work with the teachers to decide which kids get to be a part of ‘Hope.’ It’s an honor. Bender says the one-on-one interaction helps students see why all of this school stuff is really important right now. And it helps get them to that next step where they can be the best they can be.
Eighth-grader Sasha Warbritton loved the mentor program because she learned life skills she knows she’ll need someday.
“I always just assumed that everything that I learned in school would be everything I needed to know,” she said. “I’d like to say if your counselor invites you to do it, then go for it. Because, it was one of the best opportunities that I’ve had through my school.”
‘Hope’ helped eighth-grader Taylor Wickland map out milestones and things she needed to do to get to where she wants to be. Wickland, a hockey player who has been training for the Olympics for five years, plans to go into psychology and forensics.
She especially liked getting class breaks from lectures and note taking. Wickland adds it was nice to meet successful women who had achieved their goals and to learn from their feedback and hardships.
“Obviously, we hear our parents tell us, but it was great to get another influence in there that also supported us,” she said.
So, for the variety of volunteers – moms, professionals, retirees – who want to do something in someone’s life, mentoring is a wonderful way to do it without putting in tons of hours, Nettifee says.
“It’s one of those relationships that gives back both ways,” adds Bender, who is in her 12th year at CMS. “The mentors get a ton out of it and the girls get a ton out of it as well.”
How you can help
Starting in October, be a ‘Hope’ mentor to an eighth-grade girl at Central Middle School for just one morning each month, from around 8:45 to 11:30 a.m. Those who are interested in giving back some time and remember the struggles at that age can contact Diane Nettifee at email@example.com and 952-393-7127, and Geri Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org and 612-396-8622. More background and details at www.HopeForTomorrowMentoring.org.
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