SLEEPY EYE - A non-profit organization that promotes mentoring for at-risk youth that lost a parent and/or need help with self-esteem and other social skills seeks adult volunteer mentors.
"Kids that were picked on or bullied can do wonders by building relationships with adult mentors and becoming more socially engaged," Pro Kinship for Kids Director Kari Beran said at a Brown County Congress event at the Brown County REA Auditorium Friday morning.
"We're always looking for mentors. We have a waiting list of kids up to high school age. Our programs have no fees and are all grant-funded, so we're looking for new funding sources too," Beran said.
She talked about mentors working with students who were initially shy but later overcame it as their confidence and self-esteem improved. Mentors are asked to spend a minimum of four hours a month with youth, asking questions and giving appropriate feedback, while respecting young people's privacy needs.
Youth are matched with carefully screened adult volunteers in an effort to develop a relationship of caring, acceptance and trust in New Ulm, Sleepy Eye, Springfield and surrounding areas.
"Most mentors spend a lot more time than four hours a month with youth doing things they both enjoy, because it becomes a big part of both of their lives as they get to know each other and share each other's interests," Beran said. "Most of our mentors volunteer for three to four years."
Brown County Underage Substance Abuse Coalition Director Kim Janke distributed information on Social Host Ordinances and Prescription Take Back Programs in New Ulm, Sleepy Eye, Springfield.
The Social Host Ordinance holds adults responsible for underage drinking parties on their property, no matter who furnished the alcohol. Among others, underage drinking consequences are alcohol poisoning, brain damage, chronic alcohol addiction, traffic crashes, property damage, risky sexual behavior, and suspension from school activities.
Brown County Healthy Communities/Healthy Youth (HCHY) Director Mike Brigger of New ulm said the organization promotes wellness and healthy lifestyles by strengthening asset-building capacity of families and communities, to ensure youth are valued.
Since 2009, HCHY collected more than 5,000 children's books to help youngsters develop a passion for reading, Brigger said. Several years ago, the organization took over the summer Puppet Wagon program from the New Ulm Park & Recreation department, saving the youth program from city budget cuts.
Last year, 28 youth in HCHY's SPOTS (Students Performing Tough Situations) performed for more than 3,000 people. The troupe acts out skits on alcoholism, suicide, drug abuse, bullying and other subjects.
"We're helping Brown County youth really make a difference in the lives of others," Brigger said. "For good reason. Since 2008, Minnesota suicides for people of all ages are up 66 percent. I want people to be aware that there are really good things going on for young people around here. We sponsor substance-free concerts and other youth events."
A Youth Summit for area high school kids will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 28 at New Ulm High School. Speakers include former Brown County District Court Judge John Rodenberg, now a Minnesota Court of Appeals Judge.
Brown County 4-H Program Coordinator Alisa Mangen said 4-H clubs work on projects, perform community service, develop leadership skills and learn to work together with adult volunteers. Programs are supported by public, private and personal funds.
Most popular 4-H projects are photography, crafts & fine arts, food, nutrition, wood and metal shop, clothing and textiles, flower and vegetable gardening and horses.
Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.