As a sophomore at Jamestown High School, Mike was shy, had a complicated home life and wasn’t sure what he was going to do after graduation.
That year, he walked into Lorraine Walker’s classroom at Jamestown High School, and asked for help. He asked for a mentor.
With Walker’s assistance, who serves as mentoring coordinator at JHS for Chautauqua Striders, Mike was matched with an adult volunteer who he could meet with once a week to discuss academics, his home life, or just be a sounding board.
“The atmosphere at school is very different than the one at home,” Mike said. “It is nice to know that there is someone here to help.”
Mike was soon matched with a familiar face in the Jamestown Public Schools, former superintendent, Deke Kathman.
Over time, Mike and Kathman worked together, channeling Mike’s determination, intelligence and artistic ability into attainable goals.
Today, Mike is an honor student preparing to graduate who will continue his education at St. Bonaventure University on his quest to become an art therapist.
“Mike has taught me a lot too,” Kathman said. “He has restored my faith in the youth at JHS and their resilience in overcoming incredibly difficult obstacles.”
In addition to his academic achievements, Mike also works part-time at Wegmans and was recently named front-end coordinator, an accomplishment that at 17 years old makes him the youngest coordinator in the area.
“I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for Lorraine and Deke, and the mentoring program (at Chautauqua Striders),” Mike said.
According to Jennifer Flanders, Director of Mentoring and Advocacy at Chautauqua Striders, mentoring is an important piece of enhancing students’ social-emotional development, academic performance and overall self-worth.
“Participants in the Striders mentoring program also receive academic support through the monitoring of grades and referrals to tutoring when necessary,” Flanders said.
Currently Chautauqua Striders supports 40 mentor/mentee relationships at Jamestown High School and 13 at the elementary school level.
“Mentoring can actually begin with students in second grade, although they do not meet as frequently as the high school students,” Flanders said.
On Jan. 10, Striders hosted a mentor recognition dinner to honor volunteers for their continued dedication, not just to their mentees and Striders, but to the mentoring movement as a whole.
A grant from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation provided financial support to the event.
For more information on Chautauqua Striders, or to apply to be a mentor, contact Flanders at 489-3483.