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Minnesota Mentors: Give Some Time, Change a Life

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PHOTO: Kinship says the average relationship between a local mentor and child lasts about three years  compared to the national average of only 10 months. Courtesy of GMCC.
PHOTO: Kinship says the average relationship between a local mentor and child lasts about three years compared to the national average of only 10 months. Courtesy of GMCC.
 By John MichaelsonContact
December 31, 2012

ST. PAUL, Minn. - It only requires a small weekly gift of your time, but becoming a mentor can have positive impacts that last for a lifetime. Gennea Falconer, the director of the Kinship program through the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches, says that if one looks at influential relationships from childhood, it's easy to understand how vital it is to have adult role models.

"It might have been a grandparent. It might have been a teacher. It might have been in a formal mentoring relationship, but the importance of those relationships in helping us to develop as individuals and develop in school are paramount to our success as we continue to age."

Kinship volunteers only need to make a one-year commitment to the program, although the average relationship between a local mentor and child lasts about three years, compared to the national average of only 10 months. More information is online at Kinship.org. January is National Mentoring Month.

Falconer says both the perspective mentors and proteges go through an interview process so they're paired up with those of similar interests and lifestyles.

"So for some people really active mentors and mentees, they like to go to basketball games and they like to go play sports and go to the park and things like that. And others like to engage in baking. Some do homework help. It really kind of runs the spectrum of what peoples' interests are and what the mentees' interests in these are as well."

Karen Block of Fridley and her husband are mentors to an eight-year-old boy. She says it's been an incredible experience.

"He's taught us a lot about being present and just kind of getting along with little and being joyful in that. So he's quite a kid. We're pretty lucky. You open yourself up to someone else and you end up getting something much more back than what you ever thought you would, so that's certainly what's happened here."

Block considers mentoring one of the ways that people have the ability to be "God's hands in the world." Every year, Kinship pairs up hundreds of kids with mentors, but many are still waiting. Studies show that mentoring reduces everything from drug and alcohol use, to school dropouts and teen pregnancy.

More information is at Kinship.org.

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