2009-01-25 Holland Sentinel "Mentors make a difference"

Mentors make a difference
Holland Sentinel

Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance is looking for people for its migrant mentor program. Rachael DeWitt has been a mentor for three years to two sisters. From left, West Ottawa students Marlene Juarez 13, Adi Juarez 12, and DeWitt.

Allegan County, MI —

Rachael DeWitt wanted to build cross-cultural relationships and get involved in the community.

She decided the best way to do this was to become a mentor. Three years ago she joined the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance’s migrant mentor program.

For three years she’s mentored two West Ottawa schools’ students, sisters Adi and Marlene Juarez, who are 12 and 13, respectively.

“At first they were very quiet. It was like pulling teeth,” said DeWitt, 25, of Zeeland. “Now ... we can be totally silly and talk about everything.”

DeWitt and the Juarez sisters do everything from watching “High School Musical” movies and making crafts to going to places like Craig’s Cruisers or Tulip Time. They do something different every week.

The migrant mentor program is looking for additional mentors for migrant students and is recruiting people through February before migrant families return in March.

“This year we’re hoping to match 70 to 80 kids with mentors,” said Sarah Salguera, program director.

In 2008, the program was able to match 60 children with 40 mentors.

Some of the goals of the program are to help build academic achievement, make community connections and create access to the community for migrant children, Salguera said.

Mentors meet with the children once a week from March to November, while the families are in the area.

Mentors can do a variety of things with the children, from going fishing and cooking to getting a library card and checking out books from the library, Salguera said.

Potential mentors must fill out an application, have a background search and be interviewed before approval, Salguera said.

Speaking Spanish is not a requirement for mentors.

“It’s really great to see how the girls have grown. Mentors can make a difference in someone’s life,” said DeWitt, a graduate assistant at the women’s center at Grand Valley State University.

For more information about the program e-mail Salguera at program@ethnicdiversity.org or call (616) 846-9074.
Operations Director,
Jan 26, 2009, 5:41 AM