Kim Leininger

M.A.Y. Mentoring Program Coordinator Kim Leininger

(Shenandoah) -- A community-based volunteer mentoring program in Shenandoah celebrates a major milestone this year.

M.A.Y. Mentoring -- which stands for Mentoring Affects Youth -- was started in 2000 by Ed May, Jr. and has evolved into several programs designed to provide support to the young people of Shenandoah. The program marked its 20th anniversary with a Shenandoah Chamber and Industry Association coffee Wednesday at the middle school. Program Coordinator Kim Leininger says January is National Mentoring Month and was a perfect time to recognize the milestone.

"The purpose of National Mentoring Month is to share the awareness of why there is a need for mentoring, how our program tries to address that need, but it's also a time of celebration, recognition and thanks to the people who make this work," said Leininger. "My job is easy because of all of you people: the mentors, the financial supporters, all the people that support in so many different ways. I really, really appreciate it."

Mentors in the program are matched with a child in the community and spend at least one hour per week or four hours per month with their mentee. Mentors are all volunteers and receive training. Leininger says the program has numerous successess since it began.

"We are just now starting to see the some of the results of our mentoring, as our students are becoming adults," said Leininger. "We do have some really good success stories. We're happy about that. We plant seeds, we hope that we're making a difference and we believe we are making a difference. Twenty years is phenomenal, but we want to really keep going and we want to keep growing."

The program has grown from the traditional mentoring to include e-mentoring for high school freshmen, a mentoring club for sophomores, juniors and seniors and a peer mentoring program that pairs high school students with younger students at the elementary and middle schools. Austin Herold is a senior and a member of the MC squared Club. The club aims to get members ready for their lives after high school.

"MC squared is a high school program that gets us involved out in the real world," said Herold. "We explore different careers. I'm sure all of us up here have stories about how Kim has helped us find different venues and explore careers that we might like or don't like. That's how it's helped all of us."

Leininger says the program is always in need of more volunteers willing to become a mentor.

"If you're thinking about it, I don't twist arms, but we really, really, really do need more mentors," said Leininger. "There's a lot of great kids out there who are awesome and have good families, but just a little support and a change of pace or something to broaden their horizons is really awesome. Please consider that and tell your friends; tell other people that we need that."

The program honored participants in all of the program's groups, which included certificates from Governor Kim Reynolds for volunteers. As part of the program, Century Bank presented a check from its employees "jeans day" fund.