MENTORING YOUNG GIRLS: NOVATO YOUTH CENTER
Novato, CA

By Nikki Arnone Sullivan

I work in childcare, often with young children, and we do not have a "mentoring program, but we do a lot of indirect mentoring everyday with our kids. For many girls, childcare and after school programs are where they get academic and personal support, find adults to identify with and begin to discover who they are and might become.

We serve kids ages 6 weeks through 14 years, and many of these children spend between 8-10 hours a day with us. Our program provides girls with access to computers, homework help, peer counseling, and exposure to the world through field trips and special events.

We have a great staff who have dedicated their lives to children and care a great deal about the kids they work with. Our staff are not just childcare providers to these children, but they are role models, teachers, confidants, friends, and mentors. Most of our staff are women, and many of them have children who attend the center. These women are educated, loving, and dedicated. They have so much valuable information and insight to share with our kids.

As we work with the young girls we serve we try to keep in mind that they have very special needs. They have different expectations placed on them from their parents, peers, teachers, media, etc. We try to help them be aware of their own potential. We help them sort out their own strengths and weaknesses without preconceived notions of what they should be doing with their lives. As childcare providers, we have discovered how important it is to help foster independence in our girls. Many of these girls spend the majority of their time with us, and it is up to us to share our wisdoms with them and help them discover who they are as individuals. Our staff serves as role models for these girls, and the staff, too, benefits from sharing their wisdom.

In all situations, we as adults have the opportunity to be mentors to the girls in our lives. We can make it a positive experience that helps these girls grow and succeed, or we can ignore the opportunity and lose the chance to benefit both ourselves and these girls.



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