The Rutherford Report—Group Connects Students to Life Mentors

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“The mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting.”

Group Connects Students with Life Mentors

In 2007, Etiwanda High School music teacher Dr. Gayle Serdan and one of her colleagues set out to develop a mentoring program where mentors built healthy relationships with youth and inspired them to succeed in the classroom and beyond.

“It’s more than just going out to play baseball on weekends,” said Serdan, who lives in Upland. “You are having conversations about life and learning about their cultures and who they really are.”

Serdan and Etiwanda High School English teacher Dr. Torie Weiston teamed up to start the mentoring program with about 20 students at a local high school. The group continued to grow, and by 2010, the two were ready to form a nonprofit and offer their program to other schools.

Since then, hundreds of students have sought guidance and support through the Youth Mentoring Action Network, which enlists the help of volunteer mentors from various professions ranging from business to music.

“Everybody in life needs someone to help them to get from point A to point B,” Etiwanda High School student Kierra Jones, 16, said.

Kierra chose Serdan as her mentor during a Youth Mentoring Action Network event at a local indoor rock-climbing venue. The nonprofit doesn’t match mentors with mentees using the typical strategies. Due to the group’s emphasis on youth voice and youth-centered programming, it allows young people to choose mentors they think will be the best fit for them.

“We connected because I liked the way she was able to express her love of mentoring,” Kierra said.

Now, the two meet every Thursday or whenever Kierra needs to talk. They chat about what’s going on in Kierra’s personal life and discuss how she can better prepare for her future.

“It’s made it easier for me to communicate with other adults both inside and outside of school,” said Kierra, who participated in a six-week study program at the University of Southern California with the help of her mentor.

The Youth Mentoring Action Network is constantly seeking volunteers interested in becoming mentors. The group provides a couple of days of training, and each mentor is asked to make a long-term commitment to the program and their mentees.

“This is not something you do for just four years,” Serdan said. “In order to be a great mentor, it’s a lifetime commitment.”

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