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ISSUE 121 VOL 17 PUBLISHED 4/18/2008

Mentees reach goals

By Miriam Samuelson
News Editor

Friday, April 18, 2008

While many St. Olaf students focused on homework or a leisurely lunch last Sunday afternoon, members of the Reaching Our Goals (ROG) program nurtured relationships with Northfield's Latino adolescents at the Jesse James bowling lanes.

ROG mentors and their mentees attended, as well as some family members of the Northfield youth.

The ROG program has been active in the Northfield community since it was founded in 2001. "ROG isn't simply a homework program," said Kirsten Peterson '08, one of the seven student directors of ROG. "Our overall goal is to foster an empowering environment for early adolescent Latino youth."

According to Peterson, the program focuses on academic achievement as well as cultural awareness and positive social growth.

In addition to extra events like last Sunday's bowling outing, ROG mentors meet weekly on Tuesdays with their mentees.

Mentees are encouraged to bring homework to these weekly meetings, but activities range from mentees writing and performing raps about themselves to drawing self-portraits in the style of Frida Kahlo.

The program has attracted 35 Latino youth from Northfield, and each mentee is paired with a St. Olaf student for the year so that the pair might grow together by setting and reaching goals.

According to Peterson, being a ROG mentor requires a substantial time commitment. "Those who invest the time and energy to build successful relationships with their mentees definitely consider it worth it," she said.

Being a student director requires even more commitment, with an emphasis on long-term planning and logistics. Heather Campbell, assistant professor of education, meets twice weekly to advise the team of directors, and helps with planning, logistics and mentor/mentee planning.

Tyson Gern '08, one of seven student directors, said that the program has grown exponentially this year. "This is the most kids we've ever had," he said "In the last three years, it's really taken off."

According to Gern, the ROG mentorship program currently works mostly with middle school students. "We try and be good role models, to encourage the kids to do well in school, to be well-rounded," he said.

Jenny Kramm '10, another student director, said that the program has been an inspiration for her. "The students, my fellow directors and the mentees have blessed me with their stories," she said. "They've helped me learn about myself."

According to mentor Sean Johnston '09, being part of ROG requires a lot of communication and contact with one's mentee. "We do a pretty good job of making sure that we stay in contact," Johnston said. "We talk a lot about how to accomplish goals." Johnston has been fostering a relationship with his mentee since he joined ROG this past fall. "My mentee is a really cool guy," he said.

Greg Wahlberg '10 is new to the mentoring process. "This is my first semester doing it, and it's been great," he said. "You get a connection with these kids that you can't access or get with everyone else -- we have so much fun."

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