Student Voices: Non-Profit Mentorship Program in Stevens County

My name is Ellis Sherman, and I worked with the Stevens County commissioner, Jeane Ennen, on the Stevens County Mentorship Project as a CST student researcher. We’ve all heard the old folk saying; “it takes a village to raise a child”? Well, that is exactly what Stevens County Community Mentorship Project’s is all about. Which is creating the opportunity for the residents of Stevens County to come together as a community/village to raise their children, and children and/or youth to help out their peers and elderly.

When we started during Spring of 2014, the mentorship project was merely an idea. The Stevens County commissioner, Jeane Ennen, had a goal to create a non-profit Mentorship program, with the help of Kinship Mentorship Program. However, first we needed to compile understanding of the county needs that would be addressed by a mentorship program. To gather this understanding, we held community meetings in Alberta, Chokio, Donnelly, Hancock, and Morris. What we learned from those meeting were that Stevens county needed a mentorship program who would cater to k-12, young adults, elderly, Hispanic/Latino Population, college and/or international students, special needs, young mothers, youth in the legal system, and single parents.

Ellis Sherman, UMM Class of ’17
As we continued, the focus shifted to the organizational structure of the mentorship program (given that we had a target audience/group). We started with the creation of steering committee, the crucial part to every starter organization. A steering committee is a group of specialized committee that decides on the priorities of an organization and manages the general course of operations. To be brief, a steering committee is the founding fathers of an organization. The Steering Committee created a mission and vision statement and began the Kinship application process. Kinship is a renown mentorship program which serve many midwestern states through the process of an affiliate. An Affiliate is independent mentorship programs officially attached to a larger organization, which is Kinship.

My role specifically was to research other mentorship programs which would serve as a model that we could aspire to create from. I spent most of the time researching non-profit business structures and what it would take to create a successful non profit organization. To better understanding the specific of the non-profit mentorship world, I had to research mentorship programs that succeeded and those that failed. Therefore concluding with a formula that describe exactly why a mentorship program failed compared to the others that were a success. Therefore we could avoid making the same mistakes. Furthermore, I researched the leadership structure of the organization. First starting with the Board, which governs and determines the structure, staffing and other important organizational needs. In my research, it was discovered that for a mentorship program to be successful, the board must consist of individual in the following in fields; Social Worker, Psychology, Nursing, Education, Business/Management, Law (someone with legal knowledge), Civil Servant, Police, and most important of all is that all these individual have passion to work with kids.

This project meant a lot to me because it put in perspective one important thing which is that the future belong to the youth and kids. Understanding that kids are the future is ultimately the first step to solving the problem. The real problem is that our future is doomed because my generation and the next doesn’t think that anyone cares. Because of this collective thinking most give up or result to “I’ll do whatever I want” mentality. Creating a mentorship program in Stevens County will help show the youth of the county that people do care and that they also want the best for them. Ultimately this could change the future of Stevens county by changing the perspectives of those who control the future; the youth.
 
Written by Ellis Sherman, UMM class of ’17

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