Our Mission and Vision
Mentor Me empowers youth in need to achieve their highest potential by matching them with an adult mentor. We envision a world where every child in need has a mentor.
Mentor Me is a 17-year old nonprofit that helps at-risk youth achieve their best in school and in life by providing them with one-on-one, long-term adult mentors. In 2000, a group of concerned parents, teachers and community members came together to explore ways to support students who were recognized as “falling through the cracks,” at McNear Elementary School in Petaluma, California. These youth were struggling to succeed academically, often due to at-home challenges, including mental and behavioral health issues and family challenges such as unemployment, incarceration and drug use. Supporting these youth was all the more challenging due to the California Department of Education cutting funding for elementary school counseling services, leaving a lack of support and guidance for many students whose life circumstances made them particularly vulnerable to academic failure and participation in risky behavior.
In 2001, the McNear Mentoring Program was started. Carefully selected adult mentors supported three mentees that year. Additional Petaluma schools were added to the mentor program, and in 2004 the program’s name was changed to Mentor Me Petaluma. In 2014, the name was changed to Mentor Me to support at-risk, in-need youth beyond Petaluma.
Serving youth ages 5-17, Mentor Me operates in 16 Petaluma schools and at Hamilton K-8 school in Novato. We currently have over 400 active school-based mentorships in place, with 86 youth on our wait list. Trained adult mentors spend at least an hour a week with their mentees in Mentor Centers located in partner schools and at the Mentor Me Cavanagh Recreation Center. Mentor Centers are rooms on school campuses that include equipment and supplies that support developmental relationships between mentors and students. Mentor Me manages Mentor Centers in 17 schools: 9 elementary schools, 2 K-8 schools, 3 junior highs, and 3 high schools. School Site Coordinators lead the mentoring program at each site, recruiting mentors, accepting student nominations from teachers and counselors, meeting with parents and mentors, making mentor matches, and supervising mentorships.
In 2014, MM took over management of the Cavanagh Recreation Center, a 12,000 square foot community center owned by the City of Petaluma. After over $300,000 in renovations, the facility, which was built in 1959, has emerged as the go-to place for over 400 K-12 low-income, at-risk youth mentees and their mentors. Youth can visit year-round during non-school hours to engage in academic, social and recreation activities, during times when they are generally unsupervised (after school, summer and school breaks) and prone to engaging in risky behavior such as drug use, alcohol use, sexual activity, and gang activity. Mentees and their mentors can participate in educational enrichment activities (cooking classes, art/music programs, sports), receive mental/behavioral health counseling, and referrals, for themselves and their families, in our Mentor Me Wellness Center, find academic tutoring services, participate in career exploration activities, and receive college admissions coaching. The Center also serves as the Mentor Me administrative offices.