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Chautauqua Striders’ Mentors Guide, Support & Give Confidence to JPS Students

“Having a mentor helped me out in so many ways,” said 2018 Jamestown High School graduate, Victoria VanGuilder, who was part of the Chautauqua Striders Mentoring Program for six years. Victoria is now at Jamestown Business College studying marketing and management hoping to open a hair salon one day. “My mentor, Kym Eimiller, gave me so much confidence. When I started with Kym in seventh grade I couldn’t talk to anyone I was so shy. But she met with me every week at lunch and with her support, my confidence grew in and outside of school. I got a job at Indulge Salon and decided to go to college. She has always been someone I can talk to and tell her anything about what is going on in my life. I would not be where I am today with out Kym’s support.”

            Victoria is one of many Jamestown Public Schools students who have benefited from the Chautauqua Striders Mentoring Program. Victoria and her mentor, Mrs. Eimiller met for lunch through middle school. In high school, they began doing activities outside of school too. Building a loving relationship, the ladies still keep in touch even after Victoria graduated.

            “I graduated from Jamestown High School and used Chautauqua Striders when I was a student. I had a really great time while in Striders so I thought it would be wonderful to volunteer my time back to them,” said Mrs. Eimiller who has been a mentor for six years. “I have four boys so I was excited to mentor girls. It has been so much fun but more importantly I love making a connection and a difference in a child’s life. I tell people who aren’t sure about mentoring, start small. You can go in and have lunch once a week – everyone has an hour – to make such a huge difference in a child’s life. But I think you will find that once the relationship blossoms, you will want to spend more time. Mentoring gives back far more to you than you give.”

            JHS junior Ayah Rotellini agrees that the Chautauqua Striders Mentoring Program is very important.

            “I purposely went into Striders and asked for a mentor,” said Ayah who is currently in a mentoring relationship with Mrs. Eimiller that began this year. “For me, it was the opportunity to have adult guidance in my life. I was searching for it and the guidance, support and confidence that Kym has given me is amazing. She is a really kind and positive spirit. She’s like family to me. If I have a problem, she’s says ‘I got you’ and I know that she does. I appreciate the Striders programs so much for giving me Kym.”

Mrs. Eimiller is just one of 70 mentors that help Jamestown Public School students through the Chautauqua Striders Mentoring Program. Striders provide Jamestown students in second through 12th grades with a caring adult to offer support, guidance, and encouragement. Mentors and mentees spend a minimum of two to six hours together each month setting goals, exploring the community, eating lunch, collaborating to complete a project, or preparing for life after high school. The overall goal of the program is to guide mentees along a path of positive social, emotional, and academic development, which ultimately leads to graduation from high school. Chautauqua Striders offers three types of mentoring to Jamestown students:

  • School-based mentoring: Mentors meet with students during their lunch at school
  • Project-based mentoring: A group of mentors from St. Luke's church meet together with third and fourth grade students at Love Elementary School every Monday after school. Students and mentors spend time one-on-one in pre-planned shared activities.
  • Community-based mentoring: Mentors meet with students outside of school for a minimum of four hours a month, engaging in a variety of activities within the community.

            January is National Mentoring Month. Mentoring benefits the mentors. It can help you achieve personal growth and learn more about yourself while gaining a greater appreciation for diversity, and enhancing your relationships with your own friends and family.

“It has been very rewarding,” said Pastor William Blair from New Creation Assembly of God Church, who has been involved in Chautauqua Striders’ mentoring program for nine years, mentoring six Jamestown students. “I think as a mentor it’s initially a dance to build a relationship but given time and consistency, your mentee gives you permission to sneak into his or her life. Once that happens, there is the potential for helping to create change and success in a child’s life. I know there is a high poverty level in the Jamestown schools but all children are worthwhile and valuable. Change doesn’t come through pouring money into something; it comes from listening, helping and changing the culture. There are opportunities to introduce new realities that a child might not have even known about. By mentoring you are seeing the potential in a child and working towards helping them succeed. That is why I do it.”

There are no special skills needed to be a mentor, just a desire to make a difference in the life of a youth, be a good listeners who will offer support and encouragement, share life experiences and be consistent and dependable. To volunteer, you just need to fill out an application, be interviewed, provide references and complete a background check/fingerprinting. Chautauqua Striders then finds a compatible student match and conducts a match meeting with the student, their parent and Striders staff.

Chautauqua Striders is always looking for additional volunteers to mentor. They are looking to partner with any businesses or organizations that would encourage their employees/members to become a mentor.

“Mentoring is an easy way to make a huge impact!” said Erika Muecke, Chautauqua Striders Director of Mentoring and Advocacy. “Sometimes a child just needs someone to show up and listen, to help them see the hope for a bright future that is already inside of them. Many studies have been done describing the great impact mentoring has such as helping students make better decisions, be more likely to participate in sports or extracurricular activities or have better attendance, but it can all be summed up in a card that a Love Elementary student gave to her mentor that said, ‘You mean the world to me.’ We are so grateful to JPS administration, counselors, teachers, office and lunchroom staff and all who make time and space available for mentors and students to form such positive relationships.”

If you are interested in becoming a mentor, please contact Ms. Muecke at 716-489-3483 or Erika@chautauqua-striders.org for more information.