Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mentors Invest Time, Form Bonds with Kids; Nassau: Take Stock in Children Provides Role Models, Support

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mentors Invest Time, Form Bonds with Kids; Nassau: Take Stock in Children Provides Role Models, Support

Article excerpt

Byline: Alison Trinidad, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

A junior at Fernandina Beach High, Robyn Schmidt was put on a waiting list for mentors when she was in the seventh grade.

Schmidt waited two years to find her mentor, but she said it was worth the wait.

Schmidt and Jackye Rubin, a retired reading specialist from Chicago, have developed a relationship beyond that of mentor and student, Schmidt said. They've talked about dating boys, learning to drive and dealing with parents as much as they've discussed preparing for the SAT, finding colleges and learning geometry.

Through weekly meetings, they discovered they had a lot in common. Now the two exchange e-mails, share stories and give input into each other's lives.

"She really is a wonderful person," Schmidt said. "I kind of feel like she's the older version of me, but just a little different."

Though every mentoring relationship is unique, the stories of friendship and caring are similar. And it's that friendship that many mentors and students are celebrating this month in honor of National Mentoring Month.

Spearheaded by the Harvard Mentoring Project and the National Mentoring Partnership, National Mentor Month 2003 is a campaign to connect more of the country's youth with caring adult mentors. Supported by President Bush, the campaign plays off the president's USA Freedom Corps initiative, which aims to increase volunteer service in communities.

In Nassau County, mentoring programs include Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Nassau County and Take Stock in Children.

Unlike Big Brothers, Take Stock in Children limits the mentoring commitment to one hour a week at the student's school. Take Stock is a statewide public-private program that provides low-income children with volunteer mentors and college and vocational training scholarships.

Students are selected by committee and must sign a contract agreeing to stay drug- and crime-free, to maintain satisfactory grades and to behave well in school. Each child selected receives a four-year college tuition or two-year vocational scholarship purchased by the Florida Prepaid Tuition Program. Students receive their scholarship if they have fulfilled the terms of the contract and when they have graduated from high school.

Jody Mackle, Take Stock in Children's program director in Nassau County, said there is always a need for more mentors. Currently, 52 students and 48 mentors are participating in Mackle's program, which started in 1997.

According to the National Mentoring Partnership, about half of American children ages 10 to 18 want or need caring adult mentors. But only 2.5 million of those 17.6 million children are in formal mentoring relationships.

Lance Majors, a senior at FBHS, credits his mentor, Rick Keffer, for guiding and pushing him. …

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