Tuesday, June 19 , 2018, 5:29 pm | Fair 71º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Mentoring Program Gets Boost from Rotary Club

Inspired to help, Carpinteria Morning Rotary’s Bob Kingston recruits others to join school-based program providing positive adult role models to 3rd- through 8th-graders

Deborah Pontifex has mentored Annel for more than six years through the Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse’s school-based mentoring program.
Deborah Pontifex has mentored Annel for more than six years through the Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse’s school-based mentoring program. (CADA photo)

Bob Kingston heard the mission of the school-based mentoring program run by the Santa Barbara Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse and was convinced to get involved right away.

The program, which has served the South Coast for more than 20 years, identifies local students from third to eighth grade who would benefit from a positive adult role model in their lives and matches them up with volunteer adult mentors.

Kingston, former president of the Carpinteria Morning Rotary Club, was inspired to participate after CADA mentor program director Ann Cowell made a presentation at Rotary several years ago and mentioned a shortage of mentors.

The program had a waiting list, and two years ago, the program decided to cap the list since so many children were waiting for a mentor, Cowell said. With help from Rotary clubs, such as outreach programs for mentors, the program was able to remove the cap from the waiting list, she added.

The mentors come from all over the community and can be anyone who is older than age 18 and who wants to volunteer, Cowell said. 

“We have to do whatever we can to support them so that they have the future they deserve,” she told Noozhawk.

Students are referred by a teacher or counselor — for reasons that include academic difficulties, negative behaviors and challenging family situations — and develop a one-on-one relationship with a mentor.

A potential mentor meets with a student to see if it would be a good fit before the relationship starts.

“The age we’re going after is very critical,” Kingston said, adding that the program’s goal is “to give every kid the chance to have the life they deserve.” 

Participating in the program is rewarding for the mentors, too, he said.

The mentor program is voluntary for students, and Cowell said most of the children — and their families — are eager to participate.

Immigration lawyer Arno Jaffe has been mentoring Anthony for more than two years and has been involved in the mentorship program for 12 years.
Immigration lawyer Arno Jaffe has been mentoring Anthony for more than two years and has been involved in the mentorship program for 12 years. (CADA photo)

Local Latino families make up 90 percent of the families the program serves, she said, and most parents are very happy to have extra support for their children.

“I’ve had parents call me crying of happiness,”​ Cowell said.

The mentors encourage education, personal growth and making good choices, with an approach of friendship and support — not discipline.

“We understand the realities of their lives,”​ Cowell said of students in the program.

Potential mentors go through a three-week screening process to make sure they’re a good fit to be a mentor. The screening includes a background check, reference checks and in-person interviews. Program organizers then analyze the information to make the match, she said.

The program encourages mentors to pick students who they think will be the best fit, not the children who are most in need, Cowell explained.

“I’d say 95 percent of the time (the mentors) choose, they choose the kid we chose for them,” she said.

The relationships between the students and mentors are started at school, with weekly one-hour meetings, and mentors are given support if they get stuck and don’t know what to do, Cowell said.

She said mentors continue mentoring their students through high school, until they’re 18 years old, and more than half of the program’s matches last two years.

“If you get involved with this thing, you can’t help but go wild,” said Kingston, who has recruited a number of friends and fellow Rotarians as mentors. “I can’t think of a better thing to dedicate yourself to.”

The program serves students in Carpinteria, Goleta and Santa Barbara. Click here for more information about the mentorship program, or to get involved as a mentor.

Cowell said the program is planning its annual October telethon, which serves as its mentor recruiting event.

Noozhawk intern James Fike can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Caroline Law, co-owner of The Santa Barbara Company, has been mentoring Aneth for a year and a half. They enjoy doing homework, going out to eat and visiting amusement parks. Click to view larger
Caroline Law, co-owner of The Santa Barbara Company, has been mentoring Aneth for a year and a half. They enjoy doing homework, going out to eat and visiting amusement parks. (CADA photo)

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