Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mentor Training Last Night!

Last night Kids 'n Kinship hosted a chat group training for mentors in which we discussed the effects of chronic stress on youth, survival mode, and tips for working with youth and families.  12 mentors attended and shared their experiences with each other.  We had a wonderful discussion which helped mentors have empathy for the youth and families we work with.

In our discussion, mentors shared some great ideas:
*One mentor keeps a gratitude journal with her mentee, where they thank each other for their time together and they fun they have
*Another mentors recommends writing thank you cards for everything as it encourages youth to be thankful and to express it with her also
* Another mentor brought her photo book and everyone loved it as something for mentees to show their friends/family and show off their mentor, as well as to capture fun experiences they've had

Want to learn more about mentoring a child in Dakota County?  Go to for more information.  Our next information session is Thursday Nov. 20th, 6-6:45 pm at the Wescott Library in Eagan.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

How Mentors Can Help Youth Develop Assets

Key Principles of Asset Building
Below are some general principles you can use to help your mentee (or any young person in your life) successfully build Developmental Assets.
  • Everyone can help young people build assets- not just parents, teachers, and people with college degrees in child and youth development. Whether you are an electrician or a singer, you have the power to be a positive influence in the life of a young person.
  • All young people need assets. Search Institute’s research shows that almost all young people need more assets than they have. Young people may have lots of friends or achieve high marks in school, but they may be lacking in other areas. Mentors can help them identify strengths and build the assets that are missing in their lives.
  • Relationships are key. Strong relationships between adults and young people, between young people and their peers, and between teenagers and children are central to building assets. As a mentor, you have a significant opportunity to make a difference in your mentee’s life, just by being there for him.
  • Asset building is an ongoing process. It starts when a child is born and continues through high school and beyond. It’s never too late to start building assets with and for your mentee, regardless of her age or what her life has been like up until now.
  • Consistent messages are important. It is important for families, schools, and communities, and others to give young people consistent and similar messages about what is important and what is expected of them. Mentors can play a critical role in exposing young people to positive messages, values, and examples; these messages can be modeled in action by the way you live your life and the way you and your mentee interact with each other and the world around you.
  • Intentional repetition is important. Assets must be continually reinforced across the years and in all areas of a young person’s life. As a significant adult in your mentee’s life, you have a great opportunity to continually reinforce the positive messages and experiences he needs throughout his young life-and beyond.
  • Remember that the focus of mentoring is on forming a relationship and being a positive adult role model. What you do during your regular visits with your mentee matters less than the fact that you are spending time together and providing your mentee with support and care.
  • Show your mentee that she is a priority by keeping in touch on a regular basis. Even if you cannot be together very often, write letters, send cards, talk on the phone, or send e-mail or text messages.
  • Let your mentee know that you care about things that are important to him. For example, if your mentee has a special friend or pet, ask regularly about how he is doing. If your mentee plays a sport, attend a game or match. If he sings or plays an instrument, ask for a personal recital once in a while.
  • Be flexible. If your mentee has ideas about things to do or ways to do them, let her take the lead. You don’t need a careful plan to build assets.
  • Get to know your mentee’s interests and hobbies. Help him find opportunities to get involved with organized activities or programs that use or develop those interests of hobbies.
  • Talk about and model your personal values. Encourage your mentee to think about the values that are important to her and how those values affect behavior and decisions.
  • Share a new experience together, such as fishing, visiting a local museum (some have days when entrance fees are waived or reduces), taking a class, eating at a new restaurant, or flying a kite.
  • Practice life skills together. For example, prepare a meal together and serve it to your mentee’s family or friends.
  • Emphasize the importance of a lifelong commitment to learning. Go to the library together and check out books to read together. Help your mentee with homework or find someone who can.
  • Talk about some of your hopes and plans for the future and ask about your mentee’s vision of the future. Share ideas with each other about how you can make your respective dreams come true. If it seems as if your dreams can’t or won’t come true, work together to come up with ways to deal with barriers.
  • Enjoy your time together and have fun!
Reprinted with permission from Search Institute®. From Mentoring for Meaningful Results: Asset-Building Tips, Tools, and Activities for Youth and Adults. Copyright © 2008 Search Institute, Minneapolis, MN; 800-888-7828; All rights reserved.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Kids 'n Kinship Participants Had a Blast at the Pool Party!

49 Kids 'n Kinship youth, mentors, and their families attended the Pool Party at the MN Valley YMCA last Sunday, Nov. 2nd.  They enjoyed swimming in the pool, doing a craft, and some scrapbooking.  Youth also were able to pick out several books from a generous donation by Barnes & Noble!  Thanks to our sponsor Thrivent Financial for Lutherans for providing such a fun event!

For more information on Kids 'n Kinship and youth mentoring in Dakota County, go to  Our calendar lists dates for upcoming information sessions - the next one is Thurs. Nov. 20th, 6-6:45 pm at the Wescott Library in Eagan.  

Friday, October 24, 2014

Was it your dream to be in the NFL? Be a friend to Chance!

This could be you at a Vikings (or Packers) game with your new friend!
We currently have 56 kids waiting for a mentor!  Please consider coming forward as an individual, a couple, or a family to befriend a child age 5-16 for weekly fun and enriching everyday activities.

Here is just one youth currently waiting...

First name:  Chance

Age:  8

Interests:  Chance enjoys all sports, especially football (he plays flag football), baseball, volleyball, & tennis.  He also loves swimming, Frisbee, ice skating, ice fishing, sledding, &snowboarding.

Personality/Characteristics:  He lives with his mom, & younger sister.  Chance is friendly and social.  He’s in 2nd grade.

Goals/Dreams: Chance’s dream is to be in the NFL.   He’s looking for an active male role model (individual or couple or family) who loves sports. 

For more information, check out Kids 'n Kinship's website or call 952-892-6368.  Our next information session is Thursday Nov. 20th, 6-6:45 pm at the Wescott Library in Eagan.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Mentor's Field Guide: Are My Mentee's Parents Comfortable with My Role in their Child's Life?

You may or may not have direct contact with your mentee’s family, depending on the type of program in which you are mentoring. All programs should make every effort to assure the parent’s or guardians’ comfort by involving them during and after the match process. However, even though the family may have requested a mentor for their child and signed a permission form for participation, they may still have ambivalent feelings, wanting to help their child but also feeling uneasy about this “stranger” entering the child’s life.
If you put yourself in the parents’ shoes, it is easy to imagine that the fact that your child has a mentor might make you feel inadequate in some way. Or, you might feel jealous of the mentor’s relationship with your child, especially if your own relationship has been characterized by conflict or lack of time to spend together. Parents also can be nervous if you, as a mentor, come from a different cultural, racial, religious, or socio-economic background, wondering if you are going to turn their child away from her family heritage. To avoid these concerns, it can help to engage parents as “partners” from the beginning. If your program allows, you can talk to them or drop them a note telling them what a wonderful child they have and thanking them for trusting you, reiterating how you can never take their place in your mentee’s life.
When talking with your mentee, it is very important that you avoid any criticism of her family (even though your mentee might be critical) and that you show respect for the family’s culture, values, and beliefs. If your mentee needs to talk to you about family conflicts or frustrations, avoid taking sides; put yourself in “sounding board” mode. Help your mentee figure out why she is upset, and guide her in problem-solving discussions. In general, avoid speaking to your mentee’s parents on her behalf, but rather help your mentee develop a plan for such a talk. If she is willing, role playing can be a fun activity with your mentee being the parent and you being the child. This can help you both see things from a different perspective. If these issues come up frequently or persist over time, talk to your program coordinator and together develop a plan to increase the family’s comfort level with the mentoring relationship.
Father comforts a sad child
Reprinted with permission from The Mentor’s Field guide: Answers You Need to Help Kids Succeed by Gail Manza and Susan K. Patrick; Questions about the Mentoring Relationship, Question 32. Reprinted with permission from Search Institute®, Copyright © 2012 Search Institute, Minneapolis , MN ; 877-240-7251, ext. 1; All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Kids 'n Kinship 2014 Gala A Huge Success!

Kids 'n Kinship's Annual Gala on Sunday September 21 was very successful, raising over $30,000! Brackett's Crossing Country Club hosted 200 people that night who enjoyed the silent auction, wine pull, craft beer pull, portrait sessions, dinner and entertainment by comedian Scott Kadrlik, as well as testimonial by a mentor & his now adult mentee.

Kids 'n Kinship is so thankful for all of the MANY donors, sponsors, and volunteers who gave so generously of their time and resources to help make the event a roaring success!   The funds raised from the event will fuel our mission of providing friendships to children and teens in need of a positive adult role model. 

Enjoy these photos from the Gala

Our testimonial speakers - Jim Puncochar and Tony Dotson
Craft Beer pull table
Wine pull table

Rita Younger, Program Coordinator, and Laurie Thulien, our 2014 Gala Co-Chairs

One of the many silent auction tables

Participants enjoying the silent auction

James Backstrom, Dakota County attorney was our MC

Karen Anderson, winner of the Heart of Kids 'n Kinship award, with director Jan Belmore

Thomson Reuters, winner of the Community Partner Award
Dale & Bette Schenian, winners of the Friend of the Program Award

See more in this online gallery
We hope you will join us next year!

For more information on Kids 'n Kinship youth mentoring program in Dakota County, go to

Friday, September 19, 2014

What If We Could Help Mentees Become "Mentor Magnets" For the Rest of Their Lives?

by Venessa Marks
I clearly remember the first non-familial adult who took an interest in my development. Mrs. Hunt was blunt when she told me that I was not applying myself in her English class, and that I could do better. Then, as I transferred to a new high school, another teacher advocated for me to receive advanced placement, despite my grades being borderline. As a young professional, supervisors and more experienced colleagues have taken the time to counsel me, to open up new opportunities, and have even helped me land new jobs. It’s clear that throughout my education and into my career, informal mentors have pushed me to achieve more than I ever could have without their support.
Many of us share this same story. Yet, unfortunately, a large proportion of the youth who need mentors the most never receive that support. According to MENTOR’s new study, The Mentoring Effect, an estimated 9 million at-risk young people will reach adulthood without connecting to a mentor of any kind – informal or formal. Further, the survey also showed that with each additional risk factor, a young person is less likely to connect with an informal mentor.
These statistics certainly speak to the need for formal mentoring programs, but I think there is an even louder cry emerging from these numbers.
The landmark evaluation of the Big Brothers Big Sisters community-based mentoring program helped to establish that formal mentoring can positively influence a young person’s relationship with his or her parent, and recent research conducted by Drs. Jean Rhodes, Carla Herrera, and Sarah Schwartz on school-based mentoring has broadened these benefits to include an improved relationship with teachers.
Beyond formal mentoring programs, we also know from the work of Dr. Noelle HurdDr. Bernadette Sanchez, and others that naturally-forming positive relationships with caring adults can have a valuable impact on youth throughout their journey into adulthood and beyond.
Clearly, formal mentoring programs have the potential to influence how a young person develops and nurtures positive relationships with adults…but what if we were to seek this outcome with even greater intentionality? What if “being mentored” wasn’t just something we provided, but also a skill we taught? What would it look like for us to more intentionally build the confidence and the skills of our mentees to help them cultivate natural mentors throughout their lives? What if mentors saw themselves not as the sole non-family support, but as a connector to other, additional positive relationships in the present and into the future?
In the research field, we often discuss whether mentoring is a “vitamin” that only impacts youth while services are rendered, or an “inoculation” that, once received, forever changes one’s life trajectory. While many of us might fervently believe the latter, evidence of impact sustainability is hard to come by. But perhaps there is a different way of approaching this dilemma. Perhaps we could better sustain our impact if youth were consistently equipped to cultivate natural mentoring relationships after leaving our programs.
Together with our counterparts in Canada and researchers including Drs. Jean Rhodes, Sarah Schwartz, Tim Cavell, and Noelle Hurd, the Research, Innovation, and Growth team at Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is interested in exploring these ideas; taking an opportunity to think beyond the often time-bound constraints of a formal mentoring relationship and towards future informal mentoring experiences for our youth.
Originally Published by The Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring March 4, 2014