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First News Winter 2005

Make a Difference ... Change a Life!

   Think back to when you were growing up.  Was there an adult who was a positive influence in your life? Someone you looked up to? Partners in Huerfano and Las Animas Counties provides you with the opportunity to be that person for a child in your community. Partners is a community-based, non-profit organization that promotes positive change in youth through a one-to-one mentoring relationship with an adult role model. The organization matches each volunteer with a youth who shares similar interests and asks each mentor to spend at least three hours a week with that child, having fun and learning new skills. As a mentor, Partners will provide screening and training, as well as ongoing support from a case manager. In addition, the mentoring relationship also benefits adults, who report improved morale and the ability to learn more about themselves. Mentoring better defines their core values, and provides a fresh, new perspective on their lives, creating an overall feeling of increased satisfaction. “We are always looking for compassionate, caring adult mentors, who can offer friendship, guidance, understanding, and support to our youth,” says Debbie Channel, Executive Director of Partners. “National research indicates that mentored youth generally exhibit improved school performance and attendance, are more self-confident, display better attitudes, are motivated to reach their potential, and are less likely to become involved in drugs, alcohol, or violence,” adds Program Director, Penny Bieber.

Kimberly Mazza, Penny Bieber, Sandy Majors,
Jerry Berebitsky, Debbie Channel, and Frank Lucero

   The Partners organization now enters its 6th year of offering life skills-based programs to area youth through generous grants from the Tony Grampsas Youth Service, Daniels Anschutz and Janus, the Las Animas and Huerfano County Commissioners and the Department of Human Services. Recently, they were honored to accept the Karl E. Eitel Award for outstanding service to youth and received a $1,000 grant courtesy of the El Pomar Foundation.

   Last year, Partners joined with the YMCA in Trinidad to strengthen the group's goals of reaching more area youth. This collaboration allows both agencies to continue running their programs independently but with greater crossover possibilities, and now has a new office at the Y from which to operate. Greater efficiencies can be realized in joint fundraising opportunities, shared operational and employee costs, joint grant-writing efforts, and better recruitment opportunities. Additionally, the YMCA facility allows Partners to accommodate future growth as youth services increase.

   Although one-to-one mentoring is still the primary focus, other similarly-based programs are being introduced. Last April a gender specific program called CREW (Creative, Righteous, Educated, little, Women) was established in Walsenburg. Initially funded by the Colorado Women's Foundation and the Department of Local Affairs through a community service block grant, CREW currently serves sixteen 6th grade girls by encouraging self-development through instruction of personally and socially acceptable values.

   Likewise, Partners has established a life skills program in Las Animas County for 7&8th grade girls called “Girls Rock!”. Both programs are classroom based with lessons and activities; however, involvement includes community service and field trips. It promotes healthy behavior among young girls to help them acquire valuable life skills and develop a sense of purpose by introducing them to opportunities and allowing them to contribute to their community in meaningful ways. So far this year, girls have explored career opportunities and aptitudes, planned monthly budgets and examined the characteristics of healthy relationships. Partners also administers a “Connect” program for Huerfano County’s school districts. It's an alternative education program for students who have been suspended, but still allows them to be engaged in the learning process. The program's purpose is to keep these students involved in their education and offer them the opportunity to improve their grades and attitude by increasing parental involvement.  
Presently, the organization is making a difference in the lives of roughly 100 area youth. But still others are waiting for a mentor. If you would like to learn more about their programs or become involved in the life of a child please contact Partners at (719) 738-2378 in Huerfano County or (719) 846-1871 in Las Animas County. It's an investment in the future of our communities and their youth.


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