Wednesday, April 04, 2001

'Friends' assist students

Adult mentors aim to provide stability, guidance

By Andrea Tortora
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Some of the most at-risk students at Whittier and Oyler schools in Price Hill will get some new friends this month.

        They'll be professional adult mentors, paid to spend at least four hours a week with up to eight children. The friends will do everything from help children with schoolwork to offering an ear for problems.

[photo] Douglas Carr, a second-grader at Whittier Elementary School in Price Hill, reads Postcards from Pluto with Duncan Campbell, founder of Friends of the Children of Portland, Ore.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        “This will provide a caring, consistent adult for these children who will do whatever it takes to give children a sense of stability in their lives,” said Arlene Herman, Family Service of the Cincinnati Area president.

        The program is called Friends of the Children. It was started in Portland, Ore., in 1993 by Duncan Campbell, a man who grew past his troubled childhood to become a multimillionaire by managing timberland for investors.

        Now operating in six cities, including Cincinnati, the program pairs students with an adult mentor starting in first grade. The goal is to keep a mentor with these students through the 12th grade.

        Come fall, students at Vine Elementary and two other schools in Hamilton County will be paired with mentor.

    Professional mentors will be paired with students at Oyler, Vine and Whittier schools in Cincinnati and two other undetermined schools in Hamilton County.
    Friends will work one on one with students from first through 12th grades, spending at least four hours a week with each child. Friends will be paid a wage based on experience, averaging about $25,000 a year.
    Children selected are those most in danger of school failure, abuse, neglect, juvenile delinquency, gang and drug involvement, and teen pregnancy.
    Goals include helping children develop skills for self-sufficiency and life success. Information:
        In Cincinnati, the program will be administered by Family Service, through a partnership with the Hamilton County Department of Human Services, the KnowledgeWorks Foundation and the Foundation for Family Service.

        It is the first chapter of the program to operate under a public-private partnership. Human Services will pay Family Service $1.54 million a year for five years to operate the program. KnowledgeWorks gave $175,000 in start-up and evaluation funds. GTE Wireless will fund the first child not covered by county funding.

        Three mentors are already on board and will attend training sessions in Portland next week. Kerry Dees, 43, of Forest Park and Jennifer Sullivan, 23, of Clifton visited with students at Whittier School on Tuesday during a press conference to announce the program.

        Participating children have not been selected.

        Why pay adults to be a “friend”? With some children, it's the only way to create a meaningful relationship, Mr. Campbell said.

        Most adult volunteers work in a program 18 months, he said. And at-risk students don't always have the initiative to get involved in programs such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

        “We go after the most challenged kids,” Mr. Campbell said. “We ask a school for the most difficult kids. One of the reasons we pay is because all sorts of people come into children's lives. To have this long-term relationship, we must provide a way to make it happen.”


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