Mentors In Life Enrichment helps at-risk youth |

Mentors In Life Enrichment helps at-risk youth

R. C. Liberali
Special to the Sky-Hi News

Mentors In Life Enrichment is Grand County’s grant-funded mentoring program, targeting local at-risk youth. And it is looking for help.

Launched in October 2010 thanks to a Justice Assistance Grant from Colorado’s Division of Criminal Justice, the Enrichment Program is run by Mentor Coordinator Ian Aneloski.

The program seeks to pair young people, ages 10 to 17, with positive adult mentors. It is long held by experts that by developing and fostering positive adult relationships, at-risk students can be better prepared to achieve their maximum potential.

“The mentoring program, which works closely with both the East and West Grand School Districts, currently has some 14 ‘mentees’,” said Aneloski, “nine in East Grand and five in West Grand. And frankly, we are seeking more community help in order to better expand our presence in Kremmling.”

The numbers justify the need for intervention. According to the nonprofit Colorado Children’s Campaign: 12 percent of school age children in Grand County are living at or below the poverty line, about 274 children. And, a total of 33 percent of all children in West Grand and East Grand schools qualify for free and reduced-priced lunch programs.

School personnel – from both districts – identify and refer the potential at-risk children. “Mentees,” Aneloski said, “meet certain at-risk indicators. These include such factors as behavior problems, academic problems as well as tardiness-and-truancy issues.

“After a referral is made, I, in turn, contact the parents (or parent) for their expressed written permission to involve their minor child,” he said. “In order for this to work, I need a total buy-in-parent-and-child both sign their respective names in order to be involved.”

Aneloski and his volunteer mentors work to provide “mentees” with a stable and positive adult influence, one from which they can learn needed life skills, can rely upon to help them through new or difficult life experiences and can share and enjoy new life experiences.

Aneloski has been working diligently to engender support for his program in the hope of attracting more mentors. Aneloski will actively seek out public speaking venues with practically anyone who’ll hear him out.

“Because I’m lacking mentors on the west end, I’ve been working at it hard,” he said.

“Becoming a mentor,” he said, “requires several things. Mentors have to not only agree to give a year-long commitment, two-to-three hours-per-week, but have a genuine desire to make a difference.”

He tries to pair mentors and their mentees based on such factors as common interests – “like-minded people productively engaging in beneficial, like-minded activities,” Aneloski said.

In order to qualify for the program, potential mentors first must submit to a fingerprint-based criminal background check that is done at the Grand County Sheriff’s Office. Once they pass, they then take part in a two-to-three hour initial training program.

Potential mentors also undergo quarterly training sessions that take one-to-two hours, participate in a yearly service learning project, get together for monthly group activities and attend an annual recognition ceremony.