Interview with Lisa Brown, TrueMentors Program Manager
Hello Lisa! It sounds like you have had a busy year in spite of the pandemic.
Yes, I have been the TrueMentors Program Manager at TrueNorth Community Services for a year and a half and during that time I have managed four mentoring programs. All four programs are still active and we are doing our best to keep mentors and mentees safe. We are able to continue this programming thanks to our great volunteers, community partners and funders.
Tell me about the four programs you manage.
We offer a TrueMentors community-based program. This is the traditional one-to-one youth to adult match. I oversee the entire match process from start to finish. Intake information, background checks, setting up the match meeting, and providing ongoing support for the match.
Our TrueMentors After School Mentoring Program is done in partnership with the Engage! out-of-school time program at Hesperia Community Schools. TrueMentors provides learning and growth opportunities for students in Kindergarten through 12th grades. Students engage in brief lessons and activities under the guidance of Middle School and/or High School peer mentors and supervision by TrueMentors Staff.
TrueBlue Academy is a mentoring program in Newaygo that provides learning and growth opportunities for students in 5th-12th grades. Students work after school with volunteer mentors under the guidance and supervision of TrueMentors Staff. These lessons help young people discover who they are, cultivate abilities to shape their own lives and learn how to engage with and contribute to the world around them. The program is a partnership with Newaygo Police Department and Newaygo Public Schools.
TrueMentors Parks in Focus Program connects youth to nature through photography. Middle school students take an outdoor immersion trip, where they are taught the basics of photography. Parks in Focus encourages youth to be creative in applying photography lessons learned such as perspective, subject, macro, landscapes, and more. This program gets students outdoors where they experience time in nature, all while learning about the environment. Parks in Focus gets students to step away from typical technology. Each summer the program takes youth on an annual week-long camping trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Due to COVID-19, in 2020 the program had to be modified to local day trips instead. (Take a moment to browse photos taken by our participants here.) We usually recruit students for Parks in Focus from our other youth programs. However, the program is open to local referrals. Once the initial trip is completed, we offer outings to continually engage our Parks in Focus alumni. We are currently preparing to offer a virtual alumni event.
What is the biggest need you have right now for your programs?
The biggest need we have currently is for adults (18+) to volunteer as mentors for the Community-Based and TrueBlue Academy programs. The great news is that everything is virtual right now! This makes it easier than ever before to volunteer. We are also starting to recruit for students who need mentors. There is no deadline for becoming a mentor or mentee. All of the programs accept mentors or mentees at any time.
How many people are currently involved in your programs?
Currently we have fourteen matches in the community with fifty-six students actively participating throughout the programs.
What do the adult volunteers enjoy about the programs?
The volunteers like forming relationships with the students and giving back to the community in this way. One volunteer told me he likes that he can “just be.” He is there for the student when he needs him and that goes a long way for a child to know someone is there for him or her. Volunteers vary in ages. Most are in their late-20’s to mid-40’s, however we have a college student and several retired individuals also volunteering.
TrueMentors volunteers are doing a great job doing what they can to make a difference. I enjoy seeing the care and concern they have for their mentees and the relationships that develop.
To learn more about any of the TrueMentor programs, contact:
(231) 924-0641, ext. 109