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YouthFriends is a school-based mentoring effort that links caring adult volunteers from the community with students in schools and is open to all students, grades K-12, within participating school districts. All activities take place on school grounds before, during or after school hours. YouthFriends volunteers typically visit a school for one hour each week to do things like have lunch with a student, help with reading or academic tutoring, share an interest or a hobby or simply listen.
1800 Baltimore, Suite 400
Kansas City, MO 64108
fax (816) 842-7907 www.youthfriends.org
If you want to make a world of difference you don't necessarily need to create an entire social movement. As Mary Fink can attest, in some cases it only takes a single word.
Fink grew up in central Minnesota at a time when local children attended a one-room school from first through eighth grade. As she recalls, vehicles were usually reserved for work activities. So the nearest high school, miles away, might as well have been on the other side of the moon.
Lucky for her, Fink's teacher at her small school planted the seed in her mind that high school was crucially important.
"She would always say 'when' you go to high school, not 'if,'" Fink remembers. "With that one word, she changed my life."
In the end, Fink was not only the first of her five siblings to finish high school, she eventually went on to college and became a registered nurse.
That's why, for the past three years, she has been a YouthFriends mentor.
Fink is one of more than 27,000 volunteers who have helped students in school districts in Kansas and Missouri through YouthFriends. Like many mentoring programs, the organization's mission is to promote success, encourage healthy behaviors, and build stronger communities. YouthFriends' unique angle, however, is its partnership with local schools and its call to volunteers to spend an hour a week making a difference in children's lives.
Now that she's retired, mentoring is helping Fink to fulfill the dream of giving back that she's always harbored. And she's also not the only mentor in her family. Her husband Tony, a retired marketing/sales representative, is also a YouthFriends volunteer at the same school, which lets them arrive together as a group to study, work on projects, play games or have lunch.
"I've wanted to be a volunteer for a long time because I have an enormous amount of respect for teachers," she said. "They change hundreds and thousands of lives, and if I can just help one student, I will feel like I have achieved something great."
Fink says that although her students don't always verbalize their feelings, she can tell they're appreciative. A bright smile, a wave, and the excitement in her mentees' eyes when she enters the classroom all show just how much the children thrive on the support.
And there are no words for that.
Are you trying to make a difference in a child's life? VolunteerMatch has lots of opportunities to volunteer with children and youth in your local community. What are you waiting for? Get started today!
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