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RUSC Kinship seeking mentors and mentees in Stevens County community

MORRIS — After many months of planning, RUSC Kinship Mentoring is now recruiting individual adults, couples and families who are interested in mentoring a young person in the Stevens County area.

Andrea Bobrick, executive director of RUSC Kinship Mentoring, said the organization defines mentoring as building a positive, caring relationship with a young person who can look to their mentor as a role model.

Bobrick said there is a flexible idea of mentoring through the program, but encourages potential mentors to "incorporate the kids they're paired with into their lives and their families."

"The role of our mentors is to support families where they're at, support kids where they're at, by building relationships," explained Bobrick. "Mentors aren't replacing parents or guardians — they're there to support and work alongside parents.

RUSC Kinship was founded by Commissioner Jeanne Ennen, who was awarded an $80,000 grant through the Bush Foundation to help develop a nonprofit program that will connect individuals and mentors throughout Stevens County. It is an affiliate of the national mentoring organization Kinship, a network of 36 affiliates located in the upper Midwest. Bobrick was hired as executive director in May.

The program is now also accepting children, age 5 to 17, who are interested in developing a relationship with a mentor. Young people are accepted into the program by a referral, which can come from a parent/guardian or a group in the community like a social service agency or an educational institution.

RUSC Kinship started accepting applications for the program during Prairie Pioneer Days and has already found 22 people interested in becoming mentors.

"We don't really have any ceiling on how many mentorships we can support because our role in the mentoring relationship is to recruit, screen and train mentors, then provide follow up support with mentors and families," said Bobrick.

Potential mentors go through a screening process that will include a background check, references checks and an interview. Mentors will also receive training on communication, building self-esteem, and support for goal setting, said Bobrick.

Mentors and mentees are matched using criteria like location and common interests. Because mentors are asked to commit to spending a year with their mentee, about four hours per month, Bobrick said making good matches is very important.

"There's so much research that shows the more positive relationships a person, especially youth, but a person even, has in their life, the more likely they are to be successful," said Bobrick.

The organization is also committed to making sure no mentor is on a "waiting list" to be matched for more than a year. But for now, the matching process may be a little slower as Bobrick and the Board of Directors work out the details of the process.

RUSC Kinship also plans to start hosting quarterly activities for community members, mentors and mentees. The first, a Fall Family Fun Fest, is scheduled for the first week in October, with more information to come. Since another goal of the program is to help connect young people and mentors to the community, future activities may include community service projects in the area.

"Whenever kids feel connected to their community, they're more likely to invest in it," said Bobrick. "We hope that we can bring kids together to invest in the community so it stays a thriving place to be."

For more information about making youth referrals or becoming a mentor visit www.rusckinship.org, contact Bobrick at (320) 585-7872, or email rusckinship@gmail.com.

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