For 74 year old Corning resident Pem Lester, mentoring through the Tehama County Mentoring Program is a bit like visiting the proverbial fountain of youth. “It keeps you younger, it keeps your mind working,” she says. “And of course, it helps the kids.”
Active in the Tehama County Cattlewomen, Corning Exchange Club and two flower clubs, Pem is hardly the type to sit around watching TV, but she says mentoring is a great way to keep her from sitting around the house all day and gives her something worthwhile to do. “There are so many kids out there that need help,” she says.
Pem is matched as a Mentor-Tutor at a Corning SERRF After School Program site. She meets once a week with her mentee to concentrate on the girl’s homework and literacy skills. “I hope she’s becoming more focused. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Many seniors are afraid that an age gap will keep them from connecting with younger children, but Pem has no problem with the difference in ages. “I handle it as being a grandma,” she says “I think the kids really like the idea of having a grandma around. One boy (at the SERRF site) kept asking me how old I am, but you have to take it in context. They want a grandma!”
Pem is simultaneously enrolled in the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), of which Tehama County Mentoring Program is a service site. As an RSVP, Pem receives additional support and recognition with this cadre of senior volunteers. The Mentoring Program is her second RSVP placement. She started with the program seven years ago as a literacy volunteer at the Antelope School library in Red Bluff.
Pem is very clear about why she devotes time to mentoring: “My main goal is to help kids. If you don’t help them then they go astray and we pay for them in prison. We want to keep them out of prison and help them have a better life. If I had more time, I’d mentor another student!”