Luncheon participants learn about mentoring program

Disability: IN UInta County director Wanda Rogers speaks at the January chamber luncheon. (HERALD PHOTO/Kayne Pyatt)

EVANSTON — The Evanston Chamber of Commerce held its monthly luncheon at the Legal Tender on Jan. 10.  Chamber director Tammy Halliday opened the meeting by honoring Dang Good Smokehouse & Barbeque and Poppy Lane Event Rentals as businesses of the month.

Paul Coburn, owner and partner of the companies, along with his daughter, Rachel Sons, accepted the award and thanked the chamber and the community for their support. He shared how his family and his sons’ families started the businesses out of a love of good food and a passion for decorating, which has evolved and grown. Coburn said they look forward to many more years of serving Evanston and the surrounding areas.

Halliday then introduced Wanda Rogers, director of Disability: IN Uinta County (formerly the Uinta County Business Leadership Network) as the guest speaker to speak on behalf of the NextGen Mentoring program.

Rogers began her presentation by saying the Uinta County program had received national recognition from the national Disability: IN organization for its work with youth with disabilities.  It was chosen as the affiliate program over about 40 other affiliates in the nation.  

Also, Rogers announced the local program has partnered with four other cities — Boston, San Diego, New York City and Detroit — on a grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention. The grant will extend for three years and the goal is to continue the existing program in Uinta County.  

The NextGen Mentoring program includes two parts: individual mentoring and employment mentoring. Rogers oversees the employment mentoring and Bethany Shidler is program coordinator of the one-on-one mentoring. Currently, the local program has 45 employers involved with mentoring.

The goal of the employment mentoring component is to promote quality employment and career opportunities for youth with disabilities. Components of the program are the employer working with the youth participants to gain internship opportunities, career exploration, work experiences and job development assistance.  

One-on-one mentoring is a long-term program where adults and youth are matched for at least a year. They share at least 4-6 hours of positive activities a month. Mentors are encouraged to have some type of contact with their mentee every week to assist them in goal setting and to give encouragement to become their best self. The program is free of charge to participants.  Mentors and mentees are matched according to their likes, dislikes and interests.

To be a mentor one must be at least 18, submit to a background check, have weekly contact with the youth, commit to one full year as a mentor and complete training. To be a mentee one must be 11–17 years of age, live in Uinta County, have a disability or be at-risk, complete a youth application and interview, commit to a mentor for one year, meet with the mentor at least 4-6 hours a month and contact their mentor on a weekly basis.

“Why is mentoring important?” Rogers asked. “A report by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership found that young adults at risk for not completing high school but who had a mentor are 55 percent more likely to go to college, 81 percent more likely to participate in sports or extracurricular activities and 78 percent more likely to volunteer regularly in their communities.”

Rogers then asked the audience, “How has a mentor helped you in your life?”

Several responded with personal stories and then Rogers told Shidler’s personal story to demonstrate why the program coordinator is so committed to mentoring. 

Shidler had only been married two years when her mother-in-law passed away and left two older children whom she had adopted. Shidler and her husband did not hesitate and took the two into their home, even though the two were not much younger than Shidler herself. 

Rogers gave several more examples of successful mentoring and ended by discussing a new on-line mentoring opportunity which is looking for 10 to 20 volunteers.  

Campus Career Connect (C3.PYD) is an online group mentoring program where college students with a disability can connect with professional mentors and get help reaching their career goals. They provide monthly webinars, networking opportunities, résumé help, and ongoing support.

Students spend time each week chatting online with career mentors. Interested parties can sign up at C3.PYD.org. It’s open to any student with a disability from Wyoming or studying in Wyoming.

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