Shaping futures through relationships
Tri-Valley YMCA's new mentorship program aims to help young people
Erick Rodriguez has an uncanny ability to identify specific details about cars just by glancing at one driving by.
Mark Triska, mentor to the 14-year-old from Dublin, said he's like a car savant.
"What does savant mean?" Rodriguez asked.
Instances like these are common in their mentor-mentee relationship. Whether it's Triska helping with homework or Rodriguez sharing his knowledge of cars or the latest "Transformers" movie, it's a relationship of mutual growth.
The two have been meeting for about a year, just as long as the Tri-Valley YMCA Mentorship program has been in existence. Triska, senior vice president of corporate real estate at Colliers International, was part of the driving force to get the program going. Having previously been a mentor, he saw the benefits of the experience for both parties and wanted to help young people in the Tri-Valley.
The Tri-Valley YMCA works with Be A Mentor, a youth service organization based in Hayward, to screen and train mentors before the YMCA puts together a good match. Associate Program Director Tim Stier watches over the partnerships and works to find middle school-aged children who could benefit from the program within their other programs as well as through the Pleasanton and Livermore school districts.
Tri-Valley YMCA Mentorship is funded through various donors -- including Colliers International Links for Life Foundation, LifeStyleRx, BBandT Tanner Insurance, FunMobility, Sybase, City of Pleasanton and Hacienda Helping Hands -- who are also encouraged to have employees participate.
"The heart of mentoring is the personal relationship that develops," he said. "A young person looks to their mentor not just as role model, but as a friend, advocate, guide and somebody who loves them."
Citing one of the 40 Assets, an educational program to holistically develop young people, Stier said that students with loving and caring adults in their lives were more likely to reach their full potential.
Right now there are five mentor partnerships, and Stier said he hopes that number will grow. It's proving to be more of a challenge than he thought, however, as some parents are cautious of having their children identified as "at-risk" or the fear of potential abuse issues.
"We are highly conscious of those dangers, so we take very seriously the screening and training," Stier said. "Also, we are keeping in touch with the mentors and the mentees after the relationship is formed, it's not like they're set adrift."
Triska said he hopes to see more men and women step up as mentors.
"Mentoring as a concept is popular, but few people take the time and effort to be one," he said. "It's easier to write a check than spend time making a difference."
Mentors must go through screening, such as fingerprinting and background checks, and training through the Be A Mentor program. The commitment requires at least four to six hours per month of time spent with the mentee.
Knowing Rodriguez's interest in cars, Triska thought a trip to tour the Blackhawk Auto Museum in Danville would be fun. They have also gone biking at the BMX park on Stanley Boulevard.
Other activities, such as learning table manners at a restaurant or helping someone with yard work, may not qualify as "fun" necessarily, but it's an important part of growing the relationship and learning from each other.
When asked what he'd be doing if not for the mentorship program, Rodriquez said, "I would just be bored at home, playing video games."
To learn more about the program, contact the Tri-Valley YMCA by calling 475-6108 or visiting trivalley.ymcaeastbay.org.