The REACH Mentoring Program (Recreational Experiences Achieving Community Harmony) was established in 2000 by Carlton County agency professionals, social worker Ed Barkos and probation officer Thomas Proulx. Realizing the growing number of youth who had limited exposure to role models in their lives, they saw a need for a mentoring program. The organization received its 501 (c) 3 status in 2003.
Today, over 170 participates are involved in REACH and are recruited/referred through schools, faith communities, and service organizations across Carlton County. This year, our new program initiative will strengthen and expand youth leadership and service-learning opportunities with mentors and mentees living in under-resourced, rural communities. REACH mentors and mentees are provided with three critical program components: (1) Enriched, interactive informal/non-formal learning and training resources from local community leaders and experts. (2) Customized trainings & technical support from REACH staff to build protective factors in youth and create group cohesion between REACH participants. (3) Regular, planned meeting opportunities for all mentors/mentees including small and large group activities; plus, annual fundraising/community events supporting REACH Mentoring Program.
Today, REACH matches adult volunteer mentors with youth (or mentees) and peer mentors with mentees, as well as participating in group mentoring activities. Not all of the mentees are on probation or working with a social worker. Any youth who wants to have a mentor can get one through the REACH Program.
Our Four Cornerstones
Our main objective is to provide supportive and meaningful mentoring relationships to the youth of Carlton County. To achieve this, we created four parts to our mentoring program.
#1 The first is peer mentoring. We work with the high schools and colleges to both mentor and tutor our mentees one-on-one. Many of the mentees can relate to the youth of their mentor. The mentor isn’t viewed as another authority figure, but as a positive role model and friend.
#2 The second is adult mentoring. Here we match volunteers in the community with a mentee. They participate in one-on-one mentoring and build a positive relationship with the mentee. Both with adult and peer mentoring, we ask the mentor to commit for 12 months, and meet at least once a week for an hour. The mentor and mentee sign a contract with each other and then begin their journey.
#3 The third category of the program is facilitators, social workers, probation officers, etc. mentoring youth. This can work a couple different ways. The youth of one of these professionals may request to have a mentor or not one at all. These professionals can go on outings with their clients, build relationships, and act as the mentor in some cases through REACH But if the youth requests to have a mentor, they get to participate with both their professional worker and their mentor. This is most common in category four.
#4 The fourth category is group mentoring. Mainly, this is where the professionals are involved. They bring their clients to a group activity where the clients who have mentors meet them there or else hang out with the professionals. Adult mentors and peer mentors bring their mentees and we all participate in a group activity. As it is with all of our mentoring, REACH covers the expense for everything. This way there are not burdens placed on our mentors or families of the mentees.
In past years, the youth activities have included recreational, social, and service-based endeavors. Group activities have included skiing and snowboarding, hockey games, canoeing, movies, bowling, and all different kinds of sports. To ensure our youth has time to develop relationships, we also include social activities like sleigh rides, picnics, team building activities, and one-on-one time with mentors. Finally, we encourage our youth to embrace service-based activities. Our three most successful are tutoring, snow shoveling, and bell ringing for the Salvation Army.
One of the biggest strengths of our organization is the strong ties we have with the schools, human services, corrections, and the community.
A challenge we face is the high numbers of mentees waiting on a waiting list to be matched with a mentor. We need to recruit more mentors to meet the demand of mentees.
One of the biggest accomplishments of our program is when a former mentee becomes a mentor, or becomes involved in other organizations that focus on giving back to the community.