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Mentor group makes connections outside

 

July 17, 2020

Contributed photos

Dakota Koski, Mackenzie Bassett and Sawyer Latvala pick strawberries at Spectrum Farm July 9 as part of a REACH outing.

A summer of closed pools, canceled activities and less face-to-face contact leaves many kids seeking a little normalcy. Luckily, for some students and mentors in Carlton County, REACH is still finding safe ways to bring Carlton County adults and young people together.

"REACH" stands for Recreational Experiences Achieving Community Harmony. The nonprofit organization's mission and vision is to provide supportive mentoring relationships to the youth of Carlton County. They work toward their mission in a variety of ways. During the school year, they meet with students at school or after school to help with homework and provide fun activities for students to partake in.

REACH has been gradually working toward group mentoring, where a couple of adults mentor a group of young people.

"We haven't been getting the numbers of individual mentors like we need to fulfill the needs of young people in Carlton County as far as building supportive relationships with peers and adults," program coordinator Anne Parish said. "So we tried to tackle that challenge by building a group mentoring model."

Volunteers can volunteer in any capacity that works for them. With group mentoring, mentors can come once a month, once a week, or to every activity held, whatever works for them.

"We can also plan activities around the mentor, such as, you are a master knitter and you want to start a knitting club," REACH director Dakota Koski said. "We can be flexible in working with volunteers to accommodate their schedule and their hobbies."

During the summer, REACH employees and volunteers continue their work with even more outdoor activities, such as hiking, art in the park, board games in the park, strawberry picking, and white water rafting.

They do this all while providing youth with tools and opportunities that will help them succeed.

And, REACH offers a handful of scholarships that participating graduating students can apply for.

The coronavirus pandemic initially made getting together with students and volunteers more challenging.

Since smaller groups are now allowed to meet outdoors, "we are doing everything outside," Parish said. "Before the summer, during the lockdown when we couldn't meet in person, we met virtually on Zoom meetings, four days a week."

The Zoom meeting link was posted on the REACH Mentoring Program webpage. Parish added, "Any young person who wanted to talk, see a friendly face, or have a good laugh ... could enjoy the fun and join the support."

To kick off their first in-person meeting, they planted a garden at the REACH office. They planted a lot of herbs in their new addition. "One of our mentor volunteers is a soap maker, so she will take the lavender we are growing and infuse it into the soap we will make later," Parish said.

REACH staff members serve alongside volunteers, so they will not have to run the whole activity by themselves.

"Our groups of young people have been smaller, so it shouldn't be overwhelming for someone who is interested in working with young people," Parish said.

Contributed photos

Anne Parish and Dustin Grover enjoy a walk through Jay Cooke State Park and the swinging bridge July 14.

Prospective mentors can submit a volunteer application from the REACH website, and youngsters interested in getting involved may sign up as mentees from the REACH website as well. Alternatively, during the school year students can show up at any SOS (Students Offering Support) meeting. SOS meetings are regularly held at the middle school and high school levels at CAAEP, Carlton, Cloquet, Cromwell-Wright, Esko, Fond du Lac Ojibwe, Moose Lake, and Wrenshall when school is in session.

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REACH out

Want to volunteer or participate in REACH activities? Call 218-499-4293, stop by the office at 1001 Stanley Ave. by Walmart in Cloquet or visit http://www.reachmentoringprogram.com. The website has a PDF calendar, along with an interactive calendar providing more details about each activity.

 
 

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