Dakota County youth looking for mentoring matches
When Lauren Lupkowski moved back to Farmington after college, she wanted to find a way to connect back with her community. After seeing a notice for Kids 'n Kinship, a Dakota County organization that helps match community members with area young people, Lupkowski decided to give mentorship a try.
Four years later, Lupkowski is still meeting monthly with the Rosemount sisters she was paired with through the organization.
"I've always enjoyed children's activities, and so what better way to share it than with someone who might otherwise not have that experience," said Lupkowski. "You never know what kind of an impact you can have until you give it a try."
In Farmington, Kids 'n Kinship has matched five children with mentors, but there are five more on the waiting list. In Rosemount, seven young people have been matched with mentors, and four more are on a waiting list.
Across the six cities in Dakota County that Kids 'n Kinship serves, 44 children between the ages of 5 and 16 are on a waiting list seeking mentors. Director Jan Belmore said this number isn't the highest wait list the organization has seen, but it is higher than average.
"Two kids is too high for me — we really want every kid out there who needs a mentor to get one," said Belmore.
In January, National Mentoring Month, the organization is hoping to recruit new adults to the program.
New mentors are asked to commit to meeting with their mentee for at least one hour per week for a year, which helps give their mentee "a sense of commitment and consistency," Belmore said. Most relationships built through Kids 'n Kinship last for at least three years.
Kids 'n Kinship is unique in that adults can sign up to mentor as individuals, couples, or as a whole family. Belmore said this can be appealing to potential mentors because it allows them to include a child in activities their family are already doing. It can also help give a mentee even more positive connections in their life, Belmore said.
"Our mentors help provide some guidance and encouragement, be that extra support person in their life," said Belmore. "It really makes sense, as a community, to be investing in our young people."
Individuals or families interested in becoming a mentor can fill out an application on the Kids 'n Kinship website at www.kidsnkinship.org, and attend an information session about the program. Mentors also go through an interview process and background check. Potential mentors then meet with a child and their family to help make a match.
Lupkowski said one of the things she likes about mentoring through Kids 'n Kinship is that the organization works hard to make effective matches between mentors and mentees.
"You don't really have to change any part of your lifestyle to make the matches, you just gain someone else to share your life experiences with," said Lupkowski.
Once a match is made, a Kids 'n Kinship staff member remains in contact to help address any concerns that might arise during the course of the relationship and provide ongoing training for mentors.
Information sessions for new mentors are scheduled from 6-6:45 p.m. Monday, Feb. 6, at Wescott Library in Eagan; 6-6:45 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28, at Heritage Library in Lakeville; and 6-6:45 p.m. Thursday, March 16, at Galaxie Library in Apple Valley.
Kids 'n Kinship's annual Bowlathon fundraiser is Sunday, April 23. For more information visit www.kidsnkinship.org or call 952-892-6368.