Bethel’s middle school mentor program strives to meet demand
As the school year begins, one way to help out in some local districts is to volunteer to be a mentor. One Eugene-area school says the need vastly outpaces the demand.
According to the U.S. Census, volunteerism dropped by seven percent during the pandemic. Many local organizations confirm there's still a deficit.
In 2019, the Bethel Middle School Mentor Program paired about 40 students with adult volunteers once per week, during lunch. Last school year, after a break because of the pandemic, only 12 students were served.
Mentors are generally matched with a mentee of the same sex, and "last year, we had no male students because we had no male mentors," said Anne Bridgman, one of the coordinators.
And that's not the only challenge the program has faced.
"We have not had mentors of color," said Bridgman. "We just really need lots of caring adults with big hearts who have 45 minutes a week.”
Bridgman said it broke her heart to have students who were never matched to a mentor.
“I think mentoring is especially important today because many students are struggling with gaps in academic and social and emotional learning, after a period of virtual learning,” she said.
Bethel mentor Ani Kameenui said anyone who’s curious, and is able to, should try it.
“I think that our life, especially post-Covid, has become increasingly insular," she told KLCC, "and it’s a really nice way to sort of return to community.”
Information on how to become a Bethel middle school volunteer is on its website.
Bethel organizers based their program on a model at Eugene 4J. You can find information on the 4J program here.