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Mentors Plus program

February 08, 2012 - Mary Stayton knew when she retired as clerk for the Brandon Alternative High School program that she would miss working with kids.

The mom of four children and grandmother of nine grandsons loves children. So two years ago, the Goodrich resident and secretary for Brandon Groveland Youth Assistance joined the Mentors Plus program.

She was matched with a now 10-year-old girl who lives in the area and who was in need of some extra one-on-one attention.

"The child I mentor, there are so many kids in her family, she kind of got left out," said Stayton. "Sometimes, the parents can't always do certain things with their child."

The Mentors Plus program is an Oakland County Youth Assistance program. According to the Mentors Plus page at oakgov.com, the program matches caring adults with young people who need a positive, adult figure in their lives. Volunteers can choose to work with an at-risk youngster, or they may want to become involved in delinquency prevention or intervention.

"Mentoring is fun, creates new friendships, and allows volunteers to share their lives with a child or young adult who needs their attention and support. This program has proven results. By contributing a few hours each month, mentors can help guide a young person with minor court involvement back onto the right track, or stabilize someone who is suffering from some family difficulty over which they have no control."

Adult mentors are needed for the program, with a waiting list of children who need to be matched. Children are matched to mentors of the same gender, but when volunteers apply, they can request a child of a specific age, and interests are also taken into account.

The child that Stayton mentors enjoys sewing and crafting, hobbies the girl's family doesn't have much experience with. Stayton notes that sometimes boys want to go fishing, for example, and don't have a father to take them.

Sometimes Stayton takes her mentee to the movies or lunch, but that is not expected of mentors.

"The Mentors Plus program is only what you want to spend," she said. "I know one lady who picks up the little girl and they go to her house and bake cookies or go to a soccer game. I went to some softball games and watched my mentee play ball. You are there for them as a kind of support. The point is to show them there is someone, a friend, that they can communicate and spend time with."

Her mentored child was shy at first, but Stayton has given her guidance and talks with the girl about school and what she's doing and what she likes. Being a mentor is not a big time or money commitment, Stayton said, but that one or two hours means a whole lot to the kids.

"It gets them out of their small corner of the world and they learn things and see how other people live and handle things differently than their family does," she said. "Sometimes you get more out of it than they do if you like working with kids. Just to be there and listen and teach and you learn from them."

For more information on how to become a mentor, contact Brandon Groveland Youth Assistance at 248-627-6445.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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