January is national mentoring month. The accolade is meant to acknowledge existing mentors but also to spread awareness about the continual need for mentoring youth in this country. If it were not for mentorship programs throughout the nation there would be many more children experiencing adolescence without viable role models.
One such local institution is the Buddy Program which has existed in the valley for the past 46 years and has always celebrated their dedicated volunteer mentors. In 2015 the Buddy Program opened an office at the Third Street Center. Since that time they have been increasing outreach between Basalt and Carbondale.
In the new year, the Buddy Program hopes to increase their number of mentors in the mid valley area. Their Community Program Director Ainhoa Bujan reached out to the newspaper to “increase awareness about not only what we do but to recruit more mentors, especially in the mid-valley and down-valley.” Put simply, she said, “we need more mentors.”
There are four parts to the Buddy Program: School Based Mentoring where community volunteers assist students in the classroom; Peer to Peer Mentoring where high school aged students mentor younger students in school; Leadership Through Exploration, Action and Discovery (LEAD) where mentees participate as a group in activities such as wilderness exploration and team building; and finally Community Mentoring where volunteers mentor and spend time with a “Buddy” one on one.
Youth from Aspen to Carbondale are provided with quality mentorship in each of these various sub-programs. Mentees or “Buddies” get to take advantage of opportunities which alternatively they may not have. This even includes traveling abroad for some.
While there is certainly good reason for acknowledgements and to be grateful for their success, there are still lots of children who could benefit from their services. Children may be referred by school counselors, social services and often times even themselves. There is no shortage of a need for mentors and likely never will be.
Currently there are approximately 95 Buddy pairs in the Community Mentoring program. Bujan explains that there is actually a “wait list for the wait list” for prospective participants in Basalt, El Jebel and Carbondale. Bujan says there is an average of 30 children on the waitlist and currently about 30 more children on the secondary waitlist. Bujan reiterated, “we are in need of mentors who are flexible and want to volunteer in the mid valley.”
More mentors means more children can be accepted into the program. A mentor is asked to commit for one year. However, ideally a Buddy will have one mentor throughout their entire time with the program. Bujan says that these pairings can last 10 to 11 years — until a Buddy graduates.
Bujan became a mentor when her Buddy was in the third grade. Now her Buddy is 16 years old and a junior in high school. They have developed a relationship that is important to the both of them and Bujan foresees lasting a lifetime.
Every December the program hosts a “Gingerbread House Workshop.” Buddies get to build gingerbread houses, meet Santa and mingle with other Buddies. This past year children on the second waitlist were even invited to participate in the fun.
“We believe that every kid needs a mentor,” says Bujan. One can say, it is their new year’s resolution to bring more mentors to Buddies in need throughout the mid valley. Bujan summarizes, “for national mentoring month we have two goals to recruit more mentors and appreciate our current mentors.”
To find out more about becoming a mentor one can go visit Buddyprogram.org or the program’s office at the Third Street Center.