David Hinds knows that even the simplest things in life can mean a lot to a 10 year-old boy from a single-parent home.
He said CJ, his young mentee, loves to have dinner with Hinds and his wife and take their salt and pepper schnauzer, Holly, for a walk.
“Sometimes it’s the dog walking him!” Hinds said. “But it’s the camaraderie – just listening to him … his dreams. I listen to his concerns and try to be positive and try to help him build his self-esteem.
Hinds is an RSVP volunteer mentor with Outagamie County Mentoring Program, which matches children ages six to 17 with adult mentors. The children are referred from Outagamie County Juvenile Justice or the Child Welfare System.
The goal is to inspire and empower them to succeed.
Hinds said the relationship forged between adults and youth in the program is very rewarding.
“It works not only for the mentee, but the mentor,” Hinds said. Maybe you’ve had a bad day at work, but you pick him up and maybe watch a funny show at the theater. Then we critique the movie afterward – it’s priceless.”
The pair celebrated the one-year anniversary of their one-on-one match in December. Among the activities they have enjoyed include a symphony at Lawrence University, a cello concert at Faith Lutheran Church and watching “A Christmas Carol” at St. Norbert College. Visiting the Barlow Planetarium and the YMCA are on their “to do” list.
Sometimes Hinds will go grocery shopping with him to “teach him how to save a nickel here and a nickel there and use coupons.” But CJ’s favorite activity is simply having dinner with them at their home.
“I try to get together once a week,” Hinds said. “I usually pick him up and we have supper with him. I make that a priority.”
According to the Outagamie County Mentoring Program, youth with a mentor are more likely to graduate from high school and are less likely to use drugs and alcohol. They also show improvement in school attendance, grades and behavior.
Mentors are provided with training, ongoing support and education and mileage reimbursement.
Thirty kids are waiting to be matched in the Outagamie County Mentoring Program.
Hinds encourages others who have four hours a month or so to consider a volunteer role as a mentor.
“These kids will appreciate you and you will be rewarded,” he said. “There are not enough good adjectives to describe the program. They have a great staff and do their best to get that first relationship to be a shining, positive experience for both the mentor and mentee.”
Want to help?
If you would like to receive monthly e-mails from Outagamie County Mentoring Program on Spotlight Youth of the Month that provides the background of a youth looking for a mentor, contact Nikki Gingras at [email protected] or 920-832-2460.