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As children struggle to grow up, learn right from wrong, feel loved, and develop self-esteem and confidence a positive adult role model is extremely important. Ideally the adult role model is a parent or family member, but that is not always the case. Today’s families are facing a multitude of obstacles. Parents may be challenged by the economy, substance abuse problems, or relational problems among many others. Often a child is left without one or sometimes both parents. In many cases a child has to assume an adult role before he or she is ready. This can be difficult for a young child who has no direction. Our Greater Good is working to decrease this problem in Porter County. At Our Greater Good we are actively recruiting men and women to serve as Lunch Buddies to children in need of adult guidance. While there are approximately 50 Lunch Buddies in place currently, there is a waiting listing of children needing a buddy.

According to the organization at www.youth.gov mentoring a child or teen is mutually beneficial for both mentor and mentee. Some of the benefits are outlined below.

The supportive, healthy relationships formed between mentors and mentees are both immediate and long-term and contribute to a host of benefits for the individuals involved.

Benefits for youth:

• Increased high school graduation rates

• Lower high school dropout rates

• Healthier relationships and lifestyle choices

• Better attitude about school

• Higher college enrollment rates and higher educational aspirations

• Enhanced self-esteem and self-confidence

• Improved behavior, both at home and at school

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• Stronger relationships with parents, teachers, and peers

• Improved interpersonal skills

• Decreased likelihood of initiating drug and alcohol use (MENTOR, 2009; Cavell, DuBois, Karcher, Keller, & Rhodes, 2009)

Benefits for mentors:

• Increased self-esteem

• A sense of accomplishment

• Creation of networks of volunteers

• Insight into childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood

• Increased patience and improved supervisory skills (U.S. Department of Labor)

Mentoring can help youth as they go through challenging life transitions, including dealing with stressful changes at home or transitioning to adulthood.

If you are interested in learning more about the Lunch Buddies program through Our Greater Good please contact kfrataccia@empowrpc.org .

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Kaye Frataccia is the program manager for Around the Table. This column solely represents the writer’s opinion.