WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) – What is a mentor?

They can be a friend, a guide, a coach, a cheerleader and maybe most importantly a support system.

There are kids across the Ohio Valley who need that positive relationship and the person they need could be you. 

Affecting kids’ lives in a positive way is important. 

Ben Bolock, Youth Mentor

One influential person, a mentor, can forever change the life of a another.

I’ve been in the social work field for 25 years and this is the most rewarding job I’ve had in that amount of time. To see the faces of the mentees when they’re with their mentors telling me what they’ve done and how close they’ve become, it’s just, it’s such a great feeling.

Janel Armstrong, Program Coordinator, Youth Mentoring Network

January is National Mentoring month and it may be the perfect time to be matched to a mentee. 

No one should think that they’re too old or they’re not active enough or they don’t make enough money to be a youth mentor.

Ben Bolock, Youth Mentor

The Youth Mentoring Network explained really anyone can be a mentor. However they do have to be at least 21 years old and go through background checks. 

Armstrong said that once a person contacts Youth Mentoring Network they are sent a packet with an application. Next, she meets with the potential mentor in their home, conducts background checks and training and gets to know the person. This allows her to better pair the mentor with a mentee.

Mentors are paired with a child between the ages of six and 17.

Once the match is made, there’s a meeting between mentor, mentee and their parent or guardian.

How the relationship goes from there is up to the individual. 

For Bolock, he focuses on setting his mentee up for success, but they still have plenty of fun and bond over shared hobbies. He also makes sure that he helps his mentee to address negative behaviors and minimize them.

My mentee, sometimes we talk more about the behavior that he’s already done and discuss if it was a good decision or a bad decision and how he’s going to move forward with it in the future. It’s really important to me that he understands why. Why the decision was either good or bad. Sometimes I believe youth growing up are like ‘don’t do that’, but they aren’t explained why not to do that.

Ben Bolock, Youth Mentor

However, Bolock says being able to have those conversations took time. Mentors should expect that it may take several meetings with one another before their mentee feels comfortable discussing any issues or problems.

While they ask for a one-year commitment, with about four hours together a month, it’s not uncommon for this bond to go way beyond that and span years.

It can continue as long as they want for the rest of their lives. I know many have continued way past 18 and they just become, you know, family.

Janel Armstrong, Program Coordinator, Youth Mentoring Network

Youth Mentoring Network pairs mentors and mentees from six counties in the Northern Panhandle and Belmont County in Ohio. 

Right now they have 35 matches, but 30 children who are still waiting.

It’s not fair to have this many children on a waiting list. 

Janel Armstrong, Program Coordinator, Youth Mentoring Network

As part of National Mentoring Month in January, Youth Mentoring Network reached out to the employers of its mentors, asking them to fill out a questionnaire detailing why they support the program.

Bolock’s employer, Grand Vue Park, was one such employer that participated.

My goal in this is to have other companies look at this and say, ‘hey that’s a good idea’ and let’s challenge one another to see who can get the most mentors from each of the companies.

Janel Armstrong, Program Coordinator, Youth Mentoring Network

So, if you’ve been wanting to make an impact., all you have to do is reach out. 

We all want to make this area better.

Ben Bolock, Youth Mentor

If you are interested in becoming a mentor or learning more about the Youth Mentoring Network contact Janel Armstrong at jarmstrong@ysswv.com or call 304-218-2857.

You can also find information online by clicking here.