Student mentors attend national conference

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A group of Grand Valley State University students will share insights about mentoring with practitioners and academics at the 21st Annual National Youth-at-Risk Conference in Savannah, Georgia from February 28-March 3. The students are members of the Pals Student Mentors program at Grand Valley.

The Grand Valley team will share how they were able to develop the unique student mentoring program with funds from a grant. Pals faculty adviser Kathleen Bailey, professor of criminal justice, said she hopes Grand Valley’s program can serve as a model for other universities looking to establish mentoring organizations.

“The program has developed with the goals of providing mentoring opportunities for students and caring mentoring relationships for at-risk youth,” said Bailey. “The program continues to remind me about the profound importance of relationships and how we, as people, are the instruments of change.”

In October of 2008, the program known as Powerful Relationships Overcoming Violent Experiences (P.R.O.V.E.) was funded with a grant from Project Safe Neighborhoods. This grant provided $29,000 to develop and expand the Grand Valley program to provide healthy and positive relationships with at-risk youth to help them resist violence and gang involvement. This preventative initiative was designed to enhance mentoring in West Michigan by providing theory-based training, enhanced supervision, organized activities and an innovative electronic support and reporting system in the Grand Valley program.

“It is amazing to see how much the program has grown from having a leadership of four volunteer coordinators to having specialized executive board positions and the support of two advisers,” said staff adviser Markus Neuhoff said. “Each week, at our executive board meetings, the students always find new ways to improve the program.”

For Neuhoff, the program benefits not only the youth who are mentored, but also the mentor volunteers. “Volunteers are able to develop their interpersonal skills,” said Neuhoff. “Volunteer experience reflects positively both in future employment and post-graduation opportunities.”

To learn more about the Grand Valley Pals Student Mentors program, visit www.gvsupals.com.

Photo: Pals Student Mentors members putting the finishing touches on the conference presentation.Top row from left: Todd Workman and Shorayi Mareya. Bottom row from left: Dr. Kathleen Bailey, Markus Neuhoff, Tiffany Beaudry

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