Goodguides offers mentor opportunities

Growing up in rural Louisiana as one of 13 children, Charles Coleman never thought he would go to college.

That changed when he started seeing a mentor who helped him with his music and schoolwork.

"Next thing I knew, I was on a four-year music scholarship to college," Coleman said.

Now a program manager for Goodwill Industries in Kansas, Coleman has the opportunity to return the favor. He is in charge of Goodguides in Sedgwick County, part of Goodwill's new nationwide mentoring program.

The program officially begins nationally today, but Coleman said he hopes to have the program operating locally later this month.

He said he wants to have 100 youths and 60 mentors in the program. Youths ages 12 to 17 can apply or be referred to the program. Anyone over 21 can apply to be a mentor.

Coleman said there will be screening and a background check on mentor applicants. Anyone who passes those will be put in the program to be matched with a youth.

"We want mentors from all walks of life," he said.

"A lot of programs have mentors who are doctors or engineers. We want the housewives. We want the sanitation workers. We want people who can relate to the kids."

The program will also feature peer and group mentoring, Coleman said. Goodguides is a nine-month program, but mentors and youths can sign up to participate more than once.

Mentors, who will get six hours of training, will spend about four hours a month with a teen.

Coleman said he does not yet know what types of activities the pairs will be doing, or where they will meet, but it will probably be at one of Goodwill's Wichita locations or a local community center.

Deidre Edwards, master mentor for Goodguides in Sedgwick County, said she will screen mentors to pair them with youths with similar career interests.

"Our main objective is to help these kids build their career plans and their job skills so they can be successful in life," said Edwards, who is in charge of recruiting and training mentors.

The program, which is funded by a grant from the Department of Justice, is aimed at helping children of all backgrounds, Coleman said.

"A lot of mentoring programs use the term 'at-risk' youth, but we're focusing on reaching all youth in need," he said.