Mentoring recognition: January is National Mentoring Month

Sunday, January 25, 2009
Kassidy Fluegge, 10, right, copies her mentor Jean Graham as she bowls at Main Street Lanes Wednesday in Jackson.

A single mother of two, 20-year-old Cortney Goodin is not inclined to let obstacles get in the way of her desire to succeed.

Her mentor, Sunshine Gibbons, has helped boost Goodin's confidence parenting and find answers to questions about parenting and future plans through a local mentoring group, the Missouri Mentoring Partnership.

Missouri Mentoring Partnership is one of a few local mentoring programs celebrating the new proclamation of January as National Mentoring Month. The U.S. Senate passed a resolution to encourage more individuals and organizations to get involved in mentoring and to recognize mentors for their contributions.

The Missouri Mentoring Partnership, Perry County Community Task Force and Big Brothers Big Sisters are three local organizations that pair mentors with youths or young adults who need guidance.

"Sunshine is another female I can come to who's a momma. I can tell her anything," Goodin said.

Meeting through the Big Brother Big Sister Program Kassidy Fluegge, 10, and Jean Graham play air hockey after bowling at Main Street Lanes Wednesday in Jackson.

"I've learned to never let anything get in the way of my dreams. Even though I am a young parent, I'm never going to let that stop me from succeeding in life and being the best mom I can be for my beautiful children," she said in an e-mail.

Goodin moved out of her family's home on her 17th birthday three years later.. She dropped out of school a month later, and then discovered she was pregnant. She went back to school and graduated from the alternative school in May 2008. Goodin is pursuing an associate degree in business online from the University of Phoenix. Soon after she started the online classes, she met Gibbons through Missouri Mentoring Partnership.

Goodin said she wanted to finish school and succeed in life, but was scared and overwhelmed by motherhood.

"I was afraid of being a bad mom," she said.

When Missouri Mentoring matched her to Gibbons, their first phone conversation lasted two hours.

Jean Graham, left and Kassidy Fluegge, 10, turn in their shoes after bowling at Main Street Lanes Wednesday in Jackson. Graham is a mentor for Fluegge through the Big Brother Big Sister Program.

"We just clicked," Goodin said.

Gibbons, a seven-year mentoring veteran, took the long conversation as a good sign.

"When we were able to share with each other without even meeting face to face, I knew we were off to a great start," she said. "The great thing about mentoring is that not only are you teaching about mothering, you also learn a lot along the way. If Cortney asks a question I do not know the answer to, we can just figure it out together. You do not have to be perfect to be a mentor, you just have to be open to sharing your experiences, be able to listen and willing to grow."

Goodin, the youngest of three children and the only girl, lost her mother at age 12.

"Having a dad raise you is a pretty interesting," she said. She said she can ask Gibbons questions most young mothers are able to ask their moms.

Goodin's future plans include attending a university to pursue a degree in radiology. Visualizing her future success, the benefits to her family and the encouragement of a mentor help Goodin stick with the plan.

"I don't want to be a statistic. I want a good job so I can provide for them," she said. "Sunshine made me realize I'm a good mom and can do this. It helps to talk with somebody. When the kids are being cranky and whiny, I can call and vent."

Missouri Mentoring Partnership director Charles DiStefano said in an e-mail, "I've had the privilege to experience the profound difference the support of our mentors has had on their young proteges. By dedicating January National Mentoring Month, it is encouraging to see the Senate recognize the critical need for youth to have mentors."

Other mentoring programs in the area focus on helping children and teens.

Big Brothers Big Sisters serves children from 5 to 17 years of age in Cape Girardeau and Scott counties.

"With growing economic pressures in families, the need to encourage children to be better students and citizens has perhaps never been greater or more urgent," the regional director of development Ellen Carlson said in an e-mail. "Too many children are lacking a positive role model and are choosing the other direction. With funding and volunteer mentors it has been proven we can change that path."

The Communities Helping Adolescents Mature Positively and Successfully Mentoring Program is conducted by the Perry County Community Task Force. CHAMPS is intended for any at-risk youth in Perry County from kindergarten to 12th grade.

"It is great to see that January has been named Mentoring Month," Perry County Community Task Force director Jeanette Klobe said in an e-mail. "It is so nice to see that mentors are receiving recognition for the valuable contributions they are making."

She said mentors may be that "lifeboat" a child needs to help during a difficult time.


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