By Ellen Krogmann, Mentoring Coordinator
Twenty years ago, Lisa Farley helped found Helping Services’ Youth Mentoring, and she has been volunteering with the program ever since. Of course, the program has evolved over time, but Lisa still finds mentoring very rewarding. She has mentored six youth and shared,
As a mentor, I have enjoyed the one-to-one time, watching my mentee want to explore and try new things. I enjoy doing things together and the friendship we have established.
When the program first launched and served only one county, mentor training included subjects relevant for the time, and that is still the case for the program today, in each of its four counties. This past year, Lisa attended a mentoring training on cyber-bullying, a topic not on people’s radar two decades ago. Lisa took that information and had an important conversation with her current mentee of five years, Isabella. They talked about how technology can be used to harm others; how once you post something, you cannot take it back; and how photos or statements are out there for the world to see. After attending the training, Isabella shared,
It is important to treat my friends as I want to be treated. Kids can be mean on the Internet, and that is not okay.
Some program elements have not changed since day one, such as the unique ways mentoring helps youth explore new interests and learn more about themselves. After attending a mentoring painting event at Chicken Creek Studio last fall, Isabella expressed to Lisa an enthusiasm for painting. Lisa observed,
Isabella has a strong interest in art and science, and we discussed how she could consider a career in either one.
To nurture Isabella’s new intrigue, they gathered canvas, paint, brushes, and a kit with plaster horses. Isabella worked on her painting project each time they met until it was complete.
Mentors and mentees have always established a bond through spending quality time together at events and one on one. This time is special to youth because they do not have to split it with other siblings or peers—time they can focus on their own interests, concerns, or questions. Isabella said,
Lisa is patient, creative, and easy to talk to.
She discussed with Lisa her future dreams and aspirations as well as her fears.
Isabella wants to be a dentist or psychologist when she grows up. She shared some academic challenges and showed me computer games that help with reading skills.
It is rewarding to watch mentees grow and learn from new experiences and conversations. Lisa stated,
I’ve watched Isabella gain a stronger self-confidence. I like being able to give her the opportunity to do things she may not otherwise get to do. We have built a strong bond, and I know she feels like she can talk to me about anything. I will continue to encourage her artistic interests. We would like to explore a couple museums in the area together.
Lisa’s commitment to mentoring has impacted many youth, who have also imprinted her life. Without Lisa and wonderful mentors who generously volunteer, youth and their unique needs—help with homework, encouragement at a soccer tourney, assistance with a personal crisis—could fall through the cracks.
Photo: Lisa and Isabella at the Iowa Governor’s Volunteer Award ceremony, recognizing Lisa’s twenty-year commitment to local youth.
Numbers are from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016.