BEND, OR -- A mentorship program new to Central Oregon has hired its first group of mentors and will soon begin selecting which kindergartners will participate in the long-term program.
Friends of the Children started 25 years ago in Portland, and recently received a large grant to expand to the High Desert and a number of other communities across the country. Kim Hatfield, Executive Director of Friends of the Children Central Oregon says the mentors, who Hatfield calls "Friends," recently completed a rigorous hiring process, "They go through an intensive training period. They all just started; we hired three friends and they all started on Tuesday, and they are in for a month-long training."
She says the program is unique because mentors are paid professionals with expertise working with at-risk kids, "We stay with the children for 12.5 years. We employ paid, professional mentors; it’s their full-time job – 40 hours a week – to be with these children in the schools, in the community, in our clubhouse." She says the goal is to insure students graduate and become contributing members of the community - whether that's in the workforce or higher education.
Each "friend" will soon be matched with eight kindergartners from across the tri-county region, "It’s a six-week selection process where our Friends and our Program Director go into our schools and start a wide lens observation," Hatfield tells KBND News, "Halfway through the observations, they then get referrals from the teachers, principals, counselors in the school, because we want to make sure we find those children who will need us the most – those children that are really lacking resilience."
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