Mentoring success: Racine Police Dept. mentors
By Crista Kruse, Mentor Kenosha & Racine manager
January is National Mentoring Awareness Month. Mentoring is a great way to give back to the community and it can make a huge difference in a young person's life. The Racine Police Department (RPD) is doing just that!
Melissa Diener, an investigator with the RPD, followed her passion to reach out to youth by designing and implementing an internal mentor program that connects police officers with at-risk youth in grades 4-8. Diener is a 14-year veteran of the department and is a mentor who wanted to take her love for working with kids to the next level.
Her unit investigates domestic violence, crimes against children (child abuse and neglect), sexual assaults, interference with child custody matters, missing persons, and other matters of a sensitive nature.
"Many of the youth in the schools have had negative experiences with the police, or have been exposed to family and friends having these negative experiences. I thought, as civil servants, it is our duty to provide positive connections with our youth, and support the community," Diener said.
She believes implementing a mentoring program to allow police to connect with youth in positive ways promotes a healthier community relationship.
During a meeting with University of Wisconsin-Parkside Chancellor Debbie Ford, Diener learned about a Mentoring Certificate course offered by Mentor Kenosha & Racine through the Center of Community Partnerships. The course led her to learn more about how to design a quality mentoring program and what it would take to support mentors who work with youth in Racine. She signed up right away.
During the course, she was connected with Racine Unified School District mentoring coordinator David Power. Diener and Power then teamed up to provide screening and mentor match services for officers who volunteered to become mentors. To date, more than 30 police officers have signed on and been matched with youth in Racine schools. In preparation to become mentors, Mentor Kenosha & Racine provided Introduction to Mentoring training to new mentors at the RPD.
The program provides homework assistance and guidance to youth through positive mentoring experiences that ultimately will lead to a healthier community.
"One of the biggest factors is that there isn't always a lot of stability in [students] lives," Diener said. "A lot of these kids have pressures and worries that we didn't have growing up and one of the biggest factors that can change a young person's life is that they have a stable adult. So, I think it's important to us, police officers or people in the community, to be those stable adults and guide them."People interested in mentoring are encouraged to attend Mentor Kenosha & Racine's upcoming conference "Unlocking Youth Potential through Mentoring." More information about the conference is available on the university web site.