Mentors Needed for Waiting List of 150 Students

Sonoma Mentoring Alliance has won recognition for keeping mentors for a child's lifetime and making the most of its budget.

During Inauguration Week, two women from Sonoma were in Washington D.C., enjoying the energy of it all.

"It was all abuzz," Kathy Witkowicki, Sonoma Mentoring Alliance executive director, told Patch. She and program director Tiny Baldry were at the National Mentororing Summit. About 650 people who run mentoring programs all over the country were there. Witkowicki was selected to present a workshop on how to keep mentors mentoring for life. The Sonoma program's goal is to have children assisted from elementary school all the way through college and into adulthood. There's a scholarship endowment fund and a college success program for students.

Sonoma's program has impressed those in the field. Witkowicki said she made a connection with a top researcher in the field who may visit Sonoma.

"Also, the California Mentor Foundation's president Andy Mecca told me we're in the top 1 percent in the state, in terms of doing so much for our mentors with so little," Witkowicki said. The program operates on an annual budget of $600,000. Witkowicki said the key to making the money stretch is to partner with people.

"Rather than asking organizations for donations, we ask how we can partner with them, and they provide services," she said. This is important in an era in which mentoring has been "slashed" out of school districts and state grants have disappeared, she said. "We're lucky to live in a community that has picked up the slack."

Sonoma Mentoring Alliance is currently helping 450 students in local public schools. There are 150 more on the waiting list.

These are the "vulnerable" kids, Witkowicki said.

"Many kids live in fatherless homes. Sometimes only one parent is present; other times both parents are there but they are working three jobs between them to make ends meet and there's no time to help children with their homework," she said.

More male mentors are needed in Sonoma. Seventy-five percent of mentors here are women.

Matches are made based on the interests of the child and the adult.

The program offers a large list of activities and events for mentors and mentees, such as fishing, movies, cooking, golf, bingo, and arts and crafts.

For more information, visit the Sonoma Mentoring Alliance website or call 707-707-938-1990. The office is at 916 First St. West.

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