, Newburyport, MA

July 2, 2013

Mentoring program brings great rewards

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

I am a longtime resident of the beautiful Merrimack Valley, having lived in Boxford for 25 years, where I raised my children and this year moved to Newburyport. Once my children had reached an age where they were well on their way (one in high school, one in college) I found I had time to devote to the community and contacted Family Service, Inc. in Lawrence.

My eyes were opened to how much real need exists right here amongst our neighbors. I was immediately drawn to the mentoring programs, with the idea I could make a difference in a young person’s life.

Family Service has several mentoring programs to match the amount of time a person has to offer and their interest. I became involved with Big Friends Little Friends, formerly Big Brother Big Sister of Greater Lawrence. I was matched with a young boy and have been his mentor for three years. Last year I also became a mentor to his older brother who had been on the wait list for over two years.

It has been a wonderful experience for me. I hope that I am making a difference in their lives, but I know emphatically, they have made a difference in mine. I will never forget my first day out; I was nervous and worried about what to do. When I came to the door, my little 9-year-old friend came bounding down the stairs of his home. He could not wait to begin his first outing with me! It is thrilling to see their reaction to simple things, a walk in the woods, riding a bike in the park, mowing the lawn, having a yard sale to pay for swim lessons.

Nearly all of the 400 kids that Family Service support in youth mentoring come from single-parent households where the kids struggle socially or academically. The good news is that mentoring has been proven to improve performance in school, relationships with peers and adults, and their ability to avoid risky behaviors.

The bad news is, Family Service has 100 kids on its wait list to be matched with a mentor, some of whom have been waiting for over three years! The program is especially in need of men, as boys can sometimes age out of the program waiting for a male mentor. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes and can be individuals, couples and families, who come closer together by mentoring together.

Please consider mentoring, and contact Family Service today. Email or call 978-327-6640.

Sandra Funari