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When the world shut down during the pandemic, PCHAS therapeutic mentors continued to address not only the academic and social needs of children but also emotional needs. These supportive relationships can be powerful.
One of the program’s biggest challenges has been learning how to help mentees with distance learning. Therapeutic mentors began, for example, by transporting Chromebooks and homework. Now, Carl Adcock has been tutors four mentees to assist them with their schoolwork. Simone Zachary meets several days a week with her mentee, who was critically behind in her studies, to enable her to graduate. As usual, Simone is in contact with the school to find the best way to help her mentee. PCHAS took further steps to help by partnering with the Salvation Army to provide 13 children a safe place for distance learning while their parents were at work.
Creativity has been key. When schools could not hold graduations in person, Tiffany Stimage and her co-worker Kimberly Graczyk put together ceremonies for their mentees. Carmen Dial and others relieved the stress and isolation of their mentees by organizing activities for them. “Even playing virtual games allowed youth to practice regulating their emotions, solve problems, resolve conflicts and improve their communication skills,” says Cassie Holt, a behavioral therapist at PCHAS.
As the need for coping skills grew in the past year, consistent contact became even more important. Tiffany found using Zoom so effective with her students that she trained other mentors how to use it. Another Therapeutic Mentor, Ahmad Oliver, received a compliment from an academic social worker who wrote, “The Hazelwood School District has been 100% virtual since the start of the school year but he has overcome the challenges of virtual schooling and is making his mentorship work by any means necessary. We don’t know what we would do without Mr. Oliver’s support.”
Mentors have pivoted to address basic needs, too, by distributing school lunches to students without transportation. They have delivered groceries to families who were quarantined.
It is the emotional support from caring adults that will have a lasting impact. Mentors like Christopher Norman, who made a visit to the gravesite of his mentee’s mother on the anniversary of her death, make a huge difference in children’s lives. A supportive adult who goes above and beyond for a child is PCHAS’s mission at work.
The demand for Therapeutic Mentors is so great that PCHAS has hired three more staff to keep up with referrals. For information about becoming a therapeutic mentor or to refer a child for mentoring, call 800-888-1904 or