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Role Models Do Matter: North Dakota Mentors Change Lives

PHOTO: Mentors and young people are matched up according to their interests, from hunting and sports to games and movies. Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest/Flickr.
PHOTO: Mentors and young people are matched up according to their interests, from hunting and sports to games and movies. Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest/Flickr.
January 28, 2015

DICKINSON, N.D. - Those North Dakotans who have resolved to make a difference this year are being encouraged to consider becoming mentors to young people.

A variety of mentoring programs in cities statewide match at-risk children with caring adults, but many more are in need of strong role models. Kris Fehr, executive director of Best Friends Mentoring Program in Dickinson, said these relationships really can have a positive influence.

"Short-term, the children's attitudes get better," she said. "Their grades get better in school. The behavior is better. The academic competency is better. The long-term is, they graduate from high school. And kids who don't graduate from high school are eight times more likely to end up in prison."

Fehr noted that mentors and young people are matched based on their interests and time available; and there's often a greater need for men to get involved.

"A large percentage of the children in our program are in single-parent homes, and then we also have a large number where the parents work a lot," she said. "They're gone a lot, and so the children may be being cared for by grandma and grandpa, or a neighbor, or in daycare quite a bit."

It's estimated that of the more than 9 million kids considered "at-risk" across the nation, only about one-third will have a mentor in their life.

Fehr said there are both community and school-based programs across North Dakota, and mentors generally are asked to commit to about an hour a week over the course of a year. January is National Mentoring Month.

More information is online at westernwellness.org. Mentoring research is at mentoring.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND