MANSFIELD — Due to a high volume of boys compared to girls in their system who are in need of mentorship, Mid-Ohio Youth Mentoring currently seeks more male mentors to help guide young boys on their journey to becoming men.
“We get about five female volunteers to every one male volunteer, and then not all volunteers end up going through the entire process of getting matched, so at this point in time there's about 122 kids on our waiting list,” said Jim Nicholson, executive director of Mid-Ohio Youth Mentoring.
Of those 122 kids, 97 of them are boys. Currently, there are between 85 to 90 kids matched to adults.
Mid-Ohio Youth Mentoring connects young people across the mid-Ohio region with a mentor who offers support, encourages them or provides them with opportunities that help them achieve success in life that they wouldn't otherwise get to without a mentor.
“Statistics always have shown that strong positive connection between adults and a young person is the single most protective factor against that child getting involved in violence, drugs and crime. And it's kind of in a nutshell why we work so hard to get a mentor embedded in those kids' lives so that they can grow up to be healthy adults,” Nicholson said.
Doug Stuckert, Bucyrus resident, started volunteering in 2018 and has mentored the same child since then. After becoming disabled and retiring, he needed something to do to fill his time.
“I like being able to share experiences that he's never had,” Stuckert said, speaking of his mentee.
Stuckert likes to do a variety of activities with his mentee, including: hiking, camping and going up to Lake Erie to swim. Normally, he would spend 40 hours a month with the child, but due to COVID-19, he’s had to shave that time in half.
There’s no exact cause for why there are less men who volunteer than women, however when asking his male friends to volunteer as well, Stuckert recalled receiving several of the same replies stating that they “didn't want to get involved.”
Nicholson has used methods in the past to try and get more male volunteers, such as hanging up flyers at golf courses and walking around lakes where people like to fish.
“That waiting list of boys continues to grow and it's frustrating to see the guys just don't want to or can't get their head around what it is to be a volunteer,” Nicholson said.
In order to become a male mentor, those interested must sign up online and submit to a background check and a screening process. Nicholson hopes to see more men sign up, stressing no one has to be the “perfect person” just to spend time with someone in need.
“The bottom line is, these kids are typically being raised in a female household,” Nicholson said. “There's usually not a positive adult male role model in these kids lives and, most of the time, that's what we're trying to change: just the perception; somebody who can teach (boys) the values of being a man and how you’re supposed to treat other people, and then model that behavior as they grow up to be young men themselves.”
Stuckert has enjoyed his experience getting to fill a void in a young boy’s life. He's currently looking into being matched with another child.
“My grandchildren are in Kansas, so it's not like I'm able to spend time with them. It's nice to have someone to share experiences with and help teach them some of the knowledge I have,” Stuckert said.