Column: Young people need more mentors
Publication Salisbury Post
Date September 26, 2005
Section(s) Opinion
Page a8
Byline
Brief Liz Tennent Rose

Guest columnist

When mentor Joe Trainor met Michael Haire back in 2002, the sixth-grade student lacked confidence and focus at school and at home.

Michael's dad had died in an automobile accident in 2000. Obviously, it was tragic and pai

Liz Tennent Rose

Guest columnist

When mentor Joe Trainor met Michael Haire back in 2002, the sixth-grade student lacked confidence and focus at school and at home.

Michael's dad had died in an automobile accident in 2000. Obviously, it was tragic and painful for the whole family. But after two years, Michael's mother said he was still very angry and emotionally uptight. He had a poor attitude, temper outbursts and his disruptive behavior led to numerous suspensions and failing grades. The school referred him to the Rowan County Youth Services Bureau. Could the agency's mentoring program help Michael? Would an adult mentor really make a difference to him?

This year, as Michael begins high school, Trainor says the teen has changed quite a lot. "His maturity and confidence are significantly better. Michael is really a bright young man, and his work ethic continues to improve. We enjoy going to football games, watching movies, playing golf and chess. We also spend time on homework, setting goals and listening to music. As a matter of fact, I've gained more appreciation for 'metal music,' thanks to Michael. We've become really good friends."

Michael's mom is "just tickled with the results. Michael is trying harder, starting to take more responsibility and behaving much better at school and at home. Joe has made a big difference, and the two of them share a special bond. Michael needed a strong male role model -- that's Joe. Our whole family has benefited from the 'Times Two' program because of the time, care and support that Joe has been able to give Michael."

The story and the people are real and live right here in Rowan County. Joe and Michael's mentoring relationship brings to life the national statistics that show the positive impact on youth who have a meaningful relationship with an adult mentor. Research shows that youngsters in such programs are:

n 27 percent less likely to begin drinking alcohol.

n 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs.

n 33 percent less likely to engage in violent behavior.

n 52 percent less likely to skip school.

The mentoring program is called X2 (formerly Friends for Youth), a non-profit program of the Rowan County Youth Services Bureau, begun in 1983. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about the program:

Why is it called Times Two? The new name and logo, X2, represent a shared vision: 2hours 2gether can change a life 4ever!

How is Times Two funded? The position is state-funded via the N.C. Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The services and activities are locally funded by the United Way of Rowan County, thanks to the generosity of contributors and approval by the RCUW board of directors.

Where do the youth referrals come from? Most of the referrals come through the local juvenile court system; however, local schools, the Rowan County Department of Social Services, parents and other legal guardians have referred at-risk youth to the X2 program.

How many youth in the program currently have mentors? 13.

How many youth are waiting for mentors? Thirty-one -- the list is and growing.

Why are so many waiting to be matched? There are not enough adult volunteers.

Hard to believe isn't it? According to 2003 census data, our county's population (over the age of 18) is almost 100,000.

What's required to be a mentor? Each mentor is unique but they all demonstrate a real sense of care and concern for young people; they recognize the need for volunteers and service; and all want to give back in a positive way.

Mentors must also be over 18 years of age, complete an application, a criminal background check and provide four approved reference forms.

As the waiting list of youths seeking mentors continues to grow, it's important to consider the time and talents we might offer. Why don't more of us volunteer to mentor? Perhaps we feel we don't have the time; or we feel anxious or scared about youth; or we wonder: What we could possibly share in common with a young person? You'd be surprised. Just ask Joe.

With that said, not every adult can (or should) be a mentor. But X2 offers many of us an opportunity to make a difference in a young person's life. They are waiting for us to respond and to volunteer. And, who knows, maybe one of these days, we'll have secured so many adult mentors that they will be the ones waiting in line to be matched with our youth!

Remember: Times Two (X2) -- 2hours 2gether can change a life 4ever!

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For more information, visit www.RowanYSB.com (click on X2) or contact X2 Program Director Liz Tennent Rose at 704-633-5636 or Liz@RowanYSB.com.