Bridging the generation gap
In 1983 part-time Tahoe resident Sondra Napell was clerking for a juvenile court judge in San Francisco. It was there that she became aware of the fragility and malleability of the youth who walked through the courtroom doors. And it was then she decided to make a difference.Napell’s program, Senior Tutors for Youth, hit the ground running with a motivated group of retirees, some in their 90s, who gathered weekly to mentor and teach troubled teens. “These are youth that don’t have caring, positive role models, healthy friends, or positive after-school programs,” Napell said. The results and feedback from the mentors and students in the Bay Area program have been positive for years, and Napell has now decided to expand Senior Tutors to the Truckee-Tahoe area.Beginning in January, a half-dozen or so Truckee seniors will set to work mentoring a handful of the more than 200 children living in the Donner Creek Mobile Home Park. “We don’t have anything for our kids here – no place to do their homework or use a computer,” said Donner Creek property manager Maria Soto. “Some of the kids asked me last year if they could come and talk to me about other small problems too. They just want to be able to meet for an hour and talk about things that are happening in school.” With Senior Tutors, teens will be able to do just that, plus work on their language skills, discuss plans for the future, and share life experiences.Lois Weyermann, a senior from Walnut Creek who has been mentoring troubled boys at the Orin Allen Youth Rehabilitation Facility in the Bay Area town of Byron for the past year, said the program is often the first time many young people have had a relationship with an adult who is not critical of them.”It is an experience of the young people feeling good, and the tutors feeling that there is a glimmer of hope for making a difference, Weyermann said. “The only thing that would stop me [from continuing] would be my own physical or mental health.”Napell said her group is looking for youth who are at risk of falling through the cracks of society’s networks.”As far as volunteers are concerned,” she said, “there is on the job training. They don’t need to be teachers, but they do need to have patience, be open-mined, enjoy teenagers, and speak good English.”CHECK IT OUTSenior Tutors for Youth tutor orientationJanuary 19, 2-4 p.m. at the Donner Creek Mobile Home Park
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