Becoming Extraordinary: A Mentor’s Impact

Deke Kathman, left, and Mike meet at Jamestown High School during one of their weekly mentoring sessions.

Editor’s Note: The Chautauqua Region Community Foundation is commemorating its 40th anniversary this year. Throughout the year, the foundation is highlighting 40 stories that are indicative of the impact foundation-funded programs and initiatives have had on the community.

As a sophomore at Jamestown High School, Mike was shy, had a complicated home life and wasn’t sure what he was going to do after graduation.

That year, he walked into Lorraine Walker’s classroom at Jamestown High School, and asked for help. He asked for a mentor.

With Walker’s assistance, who serves as mentoring coordinator at JHS for Chautauqua Striders, Mike was matched with an adult volunteer who he could meet with once a week to discuss academics, his home life, or just be a sounding board.

“The atmosphere at school is very different than the one at home,” Mike said. “It is nice to know that there is someone here to help.”

Mike was soon matched with a familiar face in the Jamestown Public Schools, former superintendent, Deke Kathman.

Over time, Mike and Kathman worked together, channeling Mike’s determination, intelligence and artistic ability into attainable goals.

Today, Mike is an honor student preparing to graduate who will continue his education at St. Bonaventure University on his quest to become an art therapist.

“Mike has taught me a lot too,” Kathman said. “He has restored my faith in the youth at JHS and their resilience in overcoming incredibly difficult obstacles.”

In addition to his academic achievements, Mike also works part-time at Wegmans and was recently named front-end coordinator, an accomplishment that at 17 years old makes him the youngest coordinator in the area.

“I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for Lorraine and Deke, and the mentoring program (at Chautauqua Striders),” Mike said.

According to Jennifer Flanders, Director of Mentoring and Advocacy at Chautauqua Striders, mentoring is an important piece of enhancing students’ social-emotional development, academic performance and overall self-worth.

“Participants in the Striders mentoring program also receive academic support through the monitoring of grades and referrals to tutoring when necessary,” Flanders said.

Currently Chautauqua Striders supports 40 mentor/mentee relationships at Jamestown High School and 13 at the elementary school level.

“Mentoring can actually begin with students in second grade, although they do not meet as frequently as the high school students,” Flanders said.

Grants from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation have provided much needed financial support to programs and events hosted by Chautauqua Striders.

For 40 years, the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation has worked together with its inspiring donors, selfless volunteers and grateful community organizations to share their stories for enriching the quality of life for all who live here.

A gift to the Foundation adds another chapter in our community’s unending story.

Learn more at crcfonline.org.

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