Archive for February, 2010

Meet our new VISTA, Megan Summers!

February 22, 2010

Just in time for the December holidays, Megan Summers arrived in Red Bluff to begin her VISTA service year with the Tehama County Mentoring Program. A Florida native who moved to South Carolina at a young age, Megan and two friends spent a week traveling from South Carolina to Red Bluff by car. This was her first cross country trip and set the stage for a remarkable year in Northern California. Melissa Mendonca, the Mentor Coordinator, interviewed Megan for this blog.

Melissa:  Megan, you’ve arrived in Red Bluff just a year after getting a Bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature. Tell us about your passion for literature.

I have always enjoyed reading books and writing. Since I was young, I have loved the idea of getting lost in the world created by an author and living through that author’s characters. It only made sense for me to study the written word when I began college. I love reading all kinds of books, from novels to short stories to poems to non-fiction. I grew up in a generation that was the first to really become obsessed with TV and the internet. Newer generations seem to rely even more on technology as a source of entertainment. Still, there is something entirely unique and inspiring about holding a book in your hands and being engaged by the author’s message. No TV show or website can come close to the feeling of reading a good book!

Melissa: Why did you choose Red Bluff and the Tehama County Mentoring Program as your VISTA site? 

I searched for interesting programs I knew I could positively contribute to on the AmeriCorps website. The Tehama County Mentoring Program stuck out to me because of the Cross-Age Mentoring Program, which recruits high school students to become mentors to younger students. I think it is such a great idea and I knew I would love to work on expanding the program. It is amazing that there is a push to get youth more involved with community service in Tehama County.

I chose Red Bluff because I had never heard of it before I read about the Tehama County Mentoring Program. I have never been to California or the West Coast and Red Bluff is in close proximity to so many amazing sights and cities. I also like the idea of living in a small, tight-knit community and becoming part of it.

Melissa: What’s your favorite thing about Tehama County so far?

Tehama County is so beautiful! I love being surrounded by so many mountains and trees. I am constantly awe-struck by how the landscape looks around here. It has been great to explore the county. I get to drive around to the different SERRF sites and high schools a lot and see amazing things every day.

I’ve enjoyed attending community events that seem to promote the natural wonders in the county. I’ve also enjoyed getting to know everything at the Tehama County Department of Education. There are so many creative and passionate people in Tehama County and I am inspired by all their hard work! I have also really enjoyed getting to know all the high school mentors in the Cross-Age Mentoring Program. They are a great group of kids who are dedicated to helping their mentees!

Melissa: What do you hope to see in California before your VISTA year is finished? 

Well, I was fortunate enough to go on an amazing cross-country road trip before I moved to Red Bluff. I got to see San Francisco, which hasalways been a dream of mine. I went to Seattle for New Year’s and had a great time with old friends. There are so many other places I hope to explore!

I really want to see the redwoods in Humboldt County. I want to explore Mt. Lassen and Mt. Shasta. I want to go swimming in the Pacific Ocean. I also really want to see what southern California is like.

Melissa: Tell us about your hometown. Where did you grow up?
I spent the first ten years of my life in a town called DeLand, Florida. It is about an hour north of Orlando. After that, I moved to Charleston, South Carolina, and have lived there ever since. I went to college about an hour and a half south of Charleston in a town called Beaufort. I consider Charleston my hometown. It is one of the most unique and historical cities in the country. The entire southeastern part of South Carolina is called the Lowcountry. The land is very flat and there is water all around. Living there is almost like living in a big island chain, with bridges, beaches, and ancient oak trees everywhere.

Melissa: What does it mean to you to be a VISTA? 

Being a VISTA means being completely dedicated to my cause of recruiting mentors for the Cross-Age Mentoring Program. Being a Volunteer in Service to America does not means going beyond the perimeters of my job and exploring creative, inventive ways to build the mentoring program. I have had such a fun time watching my plans go from ideas into realities over the last few months. Being an AmeriCorps VISTA is such an empowering experience. It makes you feel as if you can accomplish anything!

Melissa: What can a high school student expect if they sign up to be a Cross Age Mentor?

Our high school mentors have so much fun working with their mentees! For those high schoolers interested in mentoring, there are only a few easy steps involved: 1. Contact us at the Mentoring Program or someone in your school’s Career Center for an application. 2. When you’re done with your application, return it to us or your school’s designated Mentoring Program liaison. 3. When we’ve received your application, we will match you with a mentee.

Mentoring is a great way to earn community service hours and to impact the life of a student. Being a Cross-Age Mentor can be challenging at times, but building a mentoring relationship with someone else will give you invaluable life experience!


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Profiles in Mentoring: Brad and Dennis

February 11, 2010

In January 2002, Brad Carter was matched with a 9 year old boy named Dennis in the Tehama County Mentoring Program. Neither was quite sure what to expect from the other but both anticipated an adventure. Today, 8 years later, they are the longest running match in the program and a model example of the power and magic of mentoring.

Eight years is a long time in a child’s development and Dennis has grown from a boy to a young man.  Throughout that time, Brad has been a consistent guide, helping Dennis through the loss of close family members and cheering him on at baseball, football and basketball games. It’s hard for Dennis to hone down the highlights of his relationship and he answers simply, “There are a lot of highlights.” What is crystal clear, however, is the affection and respect the young man has for his mentor.  Dennis describes Brad as “A big brother/father figure, someone who really listens, who cares. He helps me on issues I wouldn’t know how to attack. Overall, he’s someone who is there no matter what.”

For Brad, helping Dennis through some of the big life lessons he’s dealt with so early in life has been a tremendous opportunity.  “Mentoring Dennis has made me feel so fortunate,” he explains. While Brad initially signed up to mentor to give back to the community, it’s clear he has gained just as much as he’s given. His wife, Loretta, has kept a photo album of the time Dennis and Brad spend together and its grown thick over the years with memories from outings the two have made. From a young boy bundled up in a life jacket for his first boat ride, to the two dressed more formally for Dennis’ 8th grade graduation, to a proud Brad beaming at Dennis on the baseball field, the photos reveal a deep connection that mentoring consistently over time develops.

Dennis’ love of team sports is a success Brad can claim. Soon after meeting Dennis, Brad suspected that he’d do well as an athlete and that the activity would be an excellent outlet for the boy’s anger.  Today, Dennis smiles widely as he talks of being a triple athlete—football, baseball and basketball — and has found a positive niche in high school. Season after season, Brad has helped Dennis gear up and get going. Their mutual pride in this success is palpable.

While the official mentoring relationship will end with the program when Dennis graduates from high school, we know a lifetime relationship has been forged.

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Redding Record Searchlight Features Our Program!

February 4, 2010

Redding Record Searchlight reporter Janet O’Neill and photographer Andreas Furhmann spent some time with Lunch Buddies Mitch Brehm and Nakaobi this week and produced a wonderful story in today’s paper. Read it here.