January is National Mentoring Month | TahoeDailyTribune.com

January is National Mentoring Month

Crystal Ptak

Tahoe Youth and Family Services is the sponsor of National Mentoring Month in South Lake Tahoe. The agency has been in this community for more than 30 years, serving the needs of children and their families.

TYFS has a specific mentoring program called the Mentoring Children of Prisoners Program, also referred to as the Tahoe Mentor Project. The agency felt that there was such a need to serve this population of children in our community that they applied for, and received a federal grant to do so. The program is for youth between the ages of 4 to 15 who have a parent who is incarcerated – anywhere from a few weeks in county jail to life in prison. With a goal to increase the number of caring adults becoming mentors, TYFS is providing the citizens of Tahoe with the opportunity to make a positive impact in the life of a child by becoming a mentor during National Mentoring Month.

The program is coordinated by Crystal Ptak, who has worked extensively with youth in various settings.

“There is a surprisingly large number of children in this community who have a parent that is incarcerated,” said Ptak. “We are on a mission to raise awareness about this issue and inspire caring adults to become mentors.” The City Council of South Lake Tahoe will proclaim January as Mentoring Month in South Lake Tahoe later this month.

Studies show that children with mentors are 52 percent less likely to skip school, 46 percent less likely to experiment with drugs, and 27 percent less likely to drink alcohol. These statistics speak volumes about how important the mentoring relationship can be.

“Because we know kids who have a parent that is incarcerated are more likely to become involved in the system themselves, a mentoring program aims at breaking that intergenerational cycle by providing an alternative role model. The Tahoe Mentor Project thus is an inexpensive and efficient early intervention in these children’s lives,” Ptak said. “The minimum time commitment is only an hour a week. A small amount of our time can make a huge difference in the life of these children.”

“Obviously our program can’t operate in a vacuum – we desperately need the support of our community,” said Ptak. “So I am putting out a community challenge to the people of South Lake Tahoe: I want to see if we can get 15 new mentors this month.

“Children will have mentors in their life. They can either have a mentor who shows them how to do drugs and engage in criminal activity, or they can have a mentor who helps show them how to grow into a healthy adult.”

To donate to the program or get involved by being a mentor contact Ptak at Tahoe Youth & Family Services, (530) 541-2445, ext. 106.

– Crystal Ptak is Mentor Program coordinator at Tahoe Youth and Family Services.

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