Across Ages Mentoring
About the Organization: Interages links senior citizens and at-risk children in Montgomery County, Md. Its eight programs focus on tutoring, mentoring and service learning, and operate through the county school system, several nursing homes and a Boys & Girls Club.
The Across Ages Mentoring Program at Interages is an intergenerational program specializing in drug, alcohol and tobacco prevention. It offers youth in grades four to six a weekly life skills class, once-a-month community service opportunities (such as nursing home visits), and mentoring through visits at school, group field trips, and one-on-one time on evenings and weekends.
Her Job: “I’m a one-stop shop. I do anything and everything that has to be done with the Across Ages program, from recruiting to training mentors, supervising and making the mentoring matches, doing the curriculum with the kids each week and developing the supplemental curriculum. I also do all of the community outreach, all of the contracts with vendors, and any speaking engagements.
“I don’t drive the bus.”
Best Part: “Working with the kids. I can be dog-tired, and I’ll be on site 10 or 15 minutes, and the kids will have a way of waking me up and getting me right where I need to be to work with them that afternoon. Vice versa, they can be having a really tough day. But they feel comfortable enough to allow you to help them through their own emotions.”
Worst Part: “Volunteer recruitment. It’s very difficult. Two years ago, they actually hired someone to do that job part-time. That has helped tremendously, because prior to that, it was really miserable. It’s still difficult to get all the volunteers I need every year, so it’s a high-stress aspect of the job.”
The Need: “They need it because most of the children that attend from the schools we serve … are suffering from low academic performance, attendance problems and poverty.
“It’s a support mechanism, but also a way to teach them survival skills and to expose them to things that they might otherwise not have experienced: problem-solving, how to deal with stress, how to acknowledge feelings, how to express feelings, how to decipher consequences, how to set goals, how to judge danger, how to say no. Common-sense skills that aren’t always so common.”
Memorable Moment: “Last year, a child who was not open at all to his mentor came to me the day after he’d had a really good session … and asked, ‘Is my mentor going to be here today?’ I told him, ‘No sweetie, they’re only here on Wednesdays.’ And he said, ‘Oh. You know, he’s the only person who listens to me.’ It was the first time that there was any evidence, in the four months the mentor spent taking abuse from this child, that it had come full circle.”
How She Got Here: “I was the activities director at a nursing home where the children did their community service. My predecessor [at Interages] knew I enjoyed working with the children and knew my major was criminal justice, and that I was specializing in juvenile justice. I was interested in prevention, and this is a prevention program.
“This upcoming year, I’ll finish my degree.”