ESPRI Task Force Hears About Chautauqua Striders Mentoring Program

Lorraine Walker, Chautauqua Striders mentoring coordinator, talks about the program during an Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative program meeting Wednesday at Jamestown Public Schools administration offices at Jefferson Middle School.
P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

Lorraine Walker, Chautauqua Striders mentoring coordinator, talks about the program during an Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative program meeting Wednesday at Jamestown Public Schools administration offices at Jefferson Middle School. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

One way of curtailing poverty in Jamestown is by increasing the high school graduation rate.

Chautauqua Striders through its mentoring program is assisting students to reach their goal of obtaining a diploma. On Wednesday during an Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative program meeting, Lorraine Walker, Chautauqua Striders mentoring coordinator, discussed how they are helping students graduate.

Walker said their goal at Striders is to make sure each student graduates from high school and will be a productive citizen, who might also continue their education after high school. She works with 43 students in high school through the mentoring program. She added each student has their own mentor from the community who supports them. She said many of the teenagers have great potential, but don’t have an adult who supports them.

”Some are from sad situations quite frankly,” she said.

Walker talked about some of the rough situations the students have lived through while going to school. She said some of them attend school because it is the safest place for them. She added 14 of the 43 students in the Striders mentoring program also have part-time jobs.

Walker said the students have to continue to get good grades and go to school to participate in the mentoring program. She said all the participants are on the merit or honor roll because of the good grades they have earned. She added sometimes they do get into trouble, but then they talk about why.

”We take care of the personal side of it and the grades take care of themselves,” she said.

Tory Irgang, United Way of Southern Chautauqua County executive director who heads the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative task force, said, nationally, the average mentoring program for the Boys and Girls Club of America last about nine months. At Chautauqua Striders, Walker said the average mentoring program last for 39 months.

”They (the students) set their sights differently. They’re not feeling sad for themselves. They want to be part of the program,” she said.

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