News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Circle of Friends seeks mentors in Sisters

Circle of Friends has a message for Sisters: Mentors wanted.

Duncan and Cindy Campbell brought Circle of Friends to Sisters in 2011. Since then, the mentorship program has expanded its growth throughout the Central Oregon community and into the Sisters schools.

Circle of Friends offers students and kids in the community the opportunity for one-on-one mentorship, academic resources, and more. They serve around 60 kids per year in Sisters through recommendations of kids who need mentorship through the Sisters School District, as well as with programming activities at their facility in downtown Sisters.

Nicole Woodson, executive director of Circle of Friends, and Kellie Scholl, program director, spoke with The Nugget on their growth and need for more mentors and volunteers.

According to their website, “Circle of Friends offers every Sisters child or youth in need … trained mentors who provide consistent, long-term, meaningful relationships. Working collaboratively with Sisters School District, community service providers, and parents, Circle of Friends develops and implements inclusive plans and support systems for mentees. Circle of Friends works to provide children and youth with positive experiences and opportunities that contribute to their current and future success.”

Circle of Friends partners with over 90 community organizations to help bring programs, activities, trips, and mentors to the kids in need. All mentors are volunteers; they receive discounts and free services through community partners. They partner with Bloom Tutors to assist students who need help academically.

“Each kid is served on an individual-need basis and the mentor works with the child’s family to see what they might be in most need of,” said Woodson.

Circle of Friends recently hired a youth program lead to assist in the schools with kids from pre-kindergarten through fourth grade, as well as a youth program lead up through middle school and high school ages. Separate leads are needed because different ages of kids have different needs.

“We work with the school counselors to help make sure they are on track to graduate and help in areas that need to be worked on and what projects they might need help with or mentoring,” said Scholl.

Circle of Friends has mentors that work with kids in every way, going to sporting events, field trips, theater programs, band concerts, and more.

“Some mentors spend time on school campuses with kids, to be there to support them academically,” said Woodson.

Circle of Friends is working to promote their mentorship programs to be focused not only on the younger kids, but also teens.

“We are looking at doing more teen-focused events, like a movie night, a bowling night, things that those ages are more interested in,” said Woodson.

“Programs have changed in some ways, and we are looking at using that second youth program lead to direct programs at the teens,” said Scholl.

Programs and mentors also assist teenagers with college admissions and drivers ed courses to help get their driver’s license.

“We really want people to know that you can volunteer with any age of kid K-12; there is a need in all age ranges,” said Woodson.

The pandemic changed how Circle of Friends was able to operate within the community, and they shifted to virtual connections, which included Zoom meetings with mentors and outdoor programs. The mentors and kids were able to stay connected.

Circle of Friends is experiencing growth in the number of kids in need of mentors that they haven’t seen in a while, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic. And there has been a shift in what is needed.

“There is a need for more high-intensive mentorship and interaction,” said Woodson.

Circle of Friends is always looking for volunteers to help mentor, including one-off activities. “If you want to take a kid out for a sporting activity or play a game or show a kid how to change a tire or stuff like that, we have volunteers that do that as well,” said Woodson.

“We want people to know that you don’t have to commit for volunteering for 12 years of the kid’s life; we do ask for a yearly commitment and then check in with the mentor and see where they are at. The organization stays with them for 12 years, but the mentors don’t have to commit to 12 years from the start,” said Scholl.

They look for the kid’s mentors to be around for the milestones such as getting their driver’s license or graduating from kindergarten. There is always a need for a mentor in a child’s life in some way once a kid enters the Circle of Friends programming.

They also have several staff positions open.

“If you have a heart for this organization and want to work with that demography in our community, we would love to hear from you,” said Woodson.

They are also working on several community engagement event including a bingo night on September 21 at The Barn, from 5 to 7 p.m.

“They are free family-friendly events that anyone can come out to, and it is a great place to learn more about us and get connected,” said Woodson.

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