Tutors, students making influential connections
Their relationships are unlikely, but in a cold and cramped meeting room at the Donner Creek Mobile Home Park, the connections made between five white adults and three Latino teens might be some of the most influential that any in the group have ever made.Senior Tutors for Youth, a new community program launched by part-time Tahoe resident Sondra Napell, connects volunteer mentors with a handful of the more than 200 children living in the Donner Creek Mobile Home Park. Together, the volunteer-teen pairs work on school assignments, discuss personal problems and share life stories.”I think that they are more open than you would think they would be,” said tutor Lynette Eddy, who has spent the past two weeks working a 15-year-old boy who is struggling to stay in school and out of trouble.
The first week the teen came to a session he wore his sweatshirt tight over his head, exposing only his nose and cheeks, Napell recalled. Gradually, over those first two hours he spent with Eddy, he pushed it back and pushed it back until you could see his face. This week, he wore no sweatshirt at all. “I’m hoping to bring friendship and support to the table,” said Eddy. “I want to be there to encourage him. I hope that the relationship can continue to grow, but it will be up to him. I will be there.”
Napell’s program started with a motivated group of retirees, some in their 90s, who gathered weekly to mentor and teach troubled teens in Bay Area juvenile facilities. The results and feedback from the mentors and students were so positive that Napell decided to expand Senior Tutors to the Truckee-Tahoe area. “Our goal is to build these kids’ self esteem. And if we can do that, it’s marvelous,” Napell said. “I think there is a tremendous need for a program like this, and it is a win-win for everybody.” But only a few area seniors have expressed interest in the program and followed through with a commitment to mentor one afternoon a week. Napell said she would like to see eight to 10 volunteers commit to two hours a week for four weeks.
“It might be just one of those things that seniors have thought about, but just need the extra push,” Eddy said. “But it is so worthwhile; you get more than you give.”To become a senior tutor, contact Lynette Eddy at 582-4221 or Sondra Napell at (510) 547-4790.
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