Role Models Needed for Mentoring Program

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Having an adult to look up to is always nice for kids in school, but not all students have a role model to reach out to when they can't talk to their parents.

Ahsaan Camp has known Garrett Christeson for most of his life. Ahsaan said, "It's great to have someone who is a male, and I can do manly things with him."

The East High School ninth grade student was matched with Christeson eight years ago through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa. They get together about every week and enjoy going to Iowa Cubs games, watching the Hawkeyes play, and just hanging out.

"We talk about things that he can't talk about with his mom, that he can't talk about with all the girls inside his house," said Christeson.

Iowa Mentoring Partnership Director Mary Sheka said, "Mentoring programs always have waiting lists of youth looking to be matched. We know, nationally, we say one in three youth that want mentors don't have a mentor."

The Iowa Mentoring Partnership works with 70 programs around the state. Anyone can be a mentor, and men are especially needed. The program takes about an hour a week for nine months to a year, but most pairings stay together much longer.

"We just know that mentors make a difference in young people's lives socially, emotionally, with their academic achievement, and just their hopefulness for the future and looking for what they'd like to get in post-secondary, as well," said Sheka.

The program has made a difference in Ahsaan's life by boosting his confidence and performance in school, and he isn't the only one who has benefited from the partnership.

"I feel like he's my brother. We're more than that. I put him in the classification, he's one of my best friends."

January is National Mentoring Month. The Iowa Mentoring Partnership's website matches people with the program that's right for them.