Partners of Routt County changes lives, two at a time
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As of 2017, Partners in Routt County has paired almost 600 senior community partner volunteers with junior partners and created over 700 school-based partnerships. These partnerships have resulted in increased academic performance, self-esteem, decision-making skills and the confidence to embrace new experiences.
Partners in Routt County, a nonprofit youth mentoring program operating in the Yampa Valley for more than 21 years, is an organization that revolves around relationships and the formation of lifelong bonds resulting from community or school-based partnerships.
Becky Slamal, Partners’ Community Outreach Manager, has seen many positive benefits a partnership has on both the adult mentors and the youths during her 8 years with the organization.
“The more trusting relationships kids have with another adult in their life the more resilient they can be. The partnerships provide opportunities and exposure by meeting new people, doing different activities, or being exposed to new ideas. Just having that support and encouragement and cheerleader along the way to get through the tough times is important,” Slamal said.
One such partnership, Alysa Selby and Danielle Morris, have been paired together for 10 years. Morris was seven years old when they were matched, and she recently graduated from Steamboat Springs High School. Morris also won 2018 Youth of the Year for the Boys and Girls Club, earning a $1,000 toward college tuition. She plans to attend Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs in the fall. Morris credits her relationship with Selby for developing the confidence and belief in herself that she could achieve her goals.
“Honestly, if it weren’t for Partners I wouldn’t have done the stuff that I do now. When I was little, I was OK with doing nothing. Now I can’t stand the idea of doing nothing. I have to be doing something,” Morris said.
Selby and Morris recall the many activities and the fears they shared over the course of their 10-year relationship. While both were nervous at the beginning of the relationship, they quickly found their rhythm. From playing dress-up to writing novels together, learning to roll sushi, performing in music recitals together, learning to ski and watching documentaries, Selby and Morris agree the partnership has developed into a rich, lifelong bond.
“I’ve got my adopted daughter. She is also my best friend. Danielle and I always got together every Friday, then after the first year [of the partnership] they say one time a month, but the child falls in love with you, and you fall in love with the child. And so, as a result, we have yet to stop our weekly Friday get-togethers in 10 years,” said Selby.
Slamal said that the list of youth waiting for a mentor hovers around 25 because just as kids get matched with a mentor, more kids are referred to Partners. The referrals come from teachers, school counselors or social workers. She noted that the organization has more kids getting referred than mentors coming in the doors.
“We need a lot of mentors. We have kids waiting. A lot of people feel intimidated feel like what if I don’t know how to do math, or what if I am not good enough to be a mentor, or think it is intimidating or you have to be this superhero person, but it is really just about building a positive relationship,” Slamal said. “Even if it is just doing daily errands together, grocery shopping, or going to the park for a walk – the activities can range.”
Slamal noted the support Partners receives from local businesses who help provide activities, discount programs for partnerships, sponsorships of events and donations. Jeremy Behling and Sarah Fox, the owners of Yampa Valley Tire Pros & Express Lube, Four Star Auto Repair and Fox Construction, firmly believe in the power of Partners and feel it is important to support local organizations that provide such firm foundations to the community. Because of their belief in the Partners’ mission, Behling and Fox said they are donating 25 percent of Yampa Valley Tire Pros mechanic service revenue for the last week of June to Partners.
Behling and Fox’s belief in the value of nonprofits lead them to the decision to provide opportunities for local nonprofits to promote themselves and educate the community about the crucial roles they play in so many lives. They noted most nonprofits have limited advertising and marketing budgets. As a result, Yampa Valley Tire Pros and Four Star Auto Repair are allocating their quarterly budgets for advertising and marketing funds to four nonprofit organizations throughout 2018, including Partners.
“There is such a need in this community for kids that need mentors. It is so important to be a part of the community and make it a better place, giving support to others who need it,” Behling said. “The partnership is beneficial for both, transforming the lives of the mentor and the junior partner.”
HOW TO BECOME A MENTOR:
Becoming a mentor requires an initial one-year commitment, with three hours per week during that time. According to Slamal, 75 percent of partnerships continue well beyond the initial year.
“Every relationship is different. For some, you see the seed you planted grow into this beautiful tree. Sometimes you are just planting a seed. You may not see the seed grow and become the beautiful tree it will become. But it started with just the little seed that you, as a mentor, planted,” Slamal said.
The mentor application and detailed information can be found on the Partner’s website, http://www.PartnersRouttCounty.org.
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