Mentoring

Longview High School senior Marisa Ibarra, 18, and her mentor, Andrea Baltes, 49, speak in January 2021 about their mentor-mentee relationship. The two were matched about 10 years ago through Longview’s Partners in Prevention’s Aspire Mentoring Program, formerly known as Forever Friends.

The city of Longview is set to celebrate National Mentoring Month with an event later this month.

Partners In Prevention’s Aspire Mentoring Program has been serving East Texas for 26 years. Formerly known as Forever Friends and Co-Pilots, the program originally started as a way to combat teen pregnancy.

Partners In Prevention Manager Holly Fuller said the program always has been about having caring, adult mentors in the lives of youth.

A mentor can make a positive impact, and young people can never have enough caring adults in their lives to encourage and support them, she said.

“All youth need adult support, whether that be guidance in trying to make decisions in life, whether that be friendships, conflict resolution, pursuing a career, finding a hobby,” Fuller said.

According to information from the city, “research shows that mentors play a powerful role in providing young people with the tools to make responsible choices, attend and engage in school, and avoid risky behavior like drug use.”

Additionally, young people who have a mentor are 55% more likely to enroll in college; 81% more likely to participate in extracurricular activities; and 78% more likely to volunteer in their communities, according to the city.

The Longview Mentoring Advisory Council has scheduled a Celebration of Mentoring at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 20 at City Hall, 300 W. Cotton St.

The celebration was not held in 2021 because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Aspire Mentoring Program Administrator Stephanie Adams said the event is meant to celebrate the mentors who dedicate their time to developing a relationship with a mentee.

“Mentoring is a very in-depth volunteering commitment, and we wanna make sure we’re recognizing our volunteers doing that,” she said.

Fuller added that because mentoring is a volunteer opportunity, people aren’t required to give it their time.

“So we do just want to take time to recognize that, and (with) National Mentoring Month, we bring that to a local level to appreciate our mentors locally,” Fuller said.

Adams said the highlight of the celebration is a former mentee who has gone through the program speaking.

This year’s guest speaker is Crystal Bowley, who Adams said started in the program when she was in sixth grade.

Adams said the mentoring program made a large difference in Bowley’s life and brought out her potential. Bowley now has a master’s degree in social work and is in the process of completing her clinical supervision, Adams said.

Mentors, mentees and representatives from school districts where the program operates are invited to the celebration, Adams said.

Additionally, a local business is honored every year for providing its services in aiding the mentoring program. Whataburger will be honored this year as it provided not only food but a location for mentors and mentees to have their match meetings, Adams said.

Adams said match meetings are often held in public locations to avoid inconveniencing the families of mentees.

The program also puts out an annual survey for mentees to provide additional information about their experience having a mentor.

The mentoring program is available in the Longview, Pine Tree, Spring Hill, Hallsville, Kilgore and White Oak ISDs.

Fuller said the program is always in need of mentors, especially men who are needed to mentor young boys.

For information about becoming a mentor, call (903) 237-1019 or email mentoring@longviewtexas.gov .

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