A group aimed at helping children find mentors in Forsyth County and north Georgia just celebrated a milestone.
Last week, Mentor Me North Georgia, a non-profit organization aimed at forging relationships between children and mentors, celebrated its 15th year in the county at the annual “Magic Moments” breakfast at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center.
Executive Director Sylvia Cardona said a lot has happened in that time.
“It’s really been remarkable,” she said. “It all started with the Leadership Forsyth class of 2002, which was headed by [Juvenile Court Judge Russell] Jackson … seeing the need for children that were going through his court system that probably wouldn’t have needed to be there if they had a positive role model or someone to show them a different avenue to do things and how to cope with life in general.”
Jackson was among those honored at the breakfast, along with Sara Harrison and Bill Schabel, who were selected as female and male mentors of the year, and Jaclyn and Stephen Bacon, who were named couple mentors of the year.
Cardona said the children in the program also spoke on their experiences.
“They just shared what they felt was that support from their mentors; that person that’s their friend that is there for them , that helps them walk the path of life, someone they can reach out to and be able to bounce ideas off of and exposed to new opportunities,” she said.
In 2002, the organization made its first match between a mentor and mentee in Forsyth County. The group passed 400 matches in 2016.
The group was originally affiliated with Big Brothers and Big Sisters until 2008, when a partnership with United Way of Forsyth County began.
“What that allowed us to do was to expand programs to be able to more directly serve the specific needs of the youth in our community,” Cardona said. “We now have four additional programs.”
Those additional programs are a one-on-one mentoring between teen and elementary school students, a music-based program, a scholarship-based program and a group program that features professionals talking to a group of teens.
Many of the mentees in the program are from single-family homes or live with grandparents or foster parents, Cardona said.
Though Mentor Me is a program of the United Way, the group depends on private donations for 50 percent of annual funding. To make a donation or for more information, go to MentorGA.org.