MENTORS HELP MIDDLE SCHOOLERS GAIN LIFE SKILLS

April 11, 2001 11:00 pm
FLORAL TIPS: Cassie Howard and La Grande Middle School seventh-grader, works on a project at Cherry's Florists with the help of Pam Dooms, the store's owner. (The Observer/DICK MASON).
FLORAL TIPS: Cassie Howard and La Grande Middle School seventh-grader, works on a project at Cherry's Florists with the help of Pam Dooms, the store's owner. (The Observer/DICK MASON).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

La Grande Middle School seventh-grader Cassie Howard is getting a head start on developing an eye-popping resume.

In the midst of a five-week mentoring program at Cherrys Florists, she helps prepare vases for bouquets, attaches bows and price tags to flower items before they are put on display and does much more. She is proving to be a fast study.

Shes a good worker and catches on very quickly, said Pam Dooms, owner of Cherrys Florists.

Cassie is taking part in a job-mentoring program through a

La Grande Middle School Life Skills class. The class is run by the Center for Human Development with funds from a Commission on Children and Families grant.

The job-mentoring part of the class, which lasts five weeks, is just one component of the year-long course.

Throughout the year, students attend a class session once a week in which they are taught about alcohol and drug abuse, problem solving, decision making, communication, relationship skills and more.

We want to help them have a healthier and happier life, said Barb Zukin, the teacher.

Zukin, a prevention specialist with the Center for Human Development, also involves her Life Skills class students in community service work. The students community service projects include raking leaves and making visits to people at the Evergreen Vista Health and Rehabilitation Center.

The Life Skills class has been offered at LMS for 2 years. This is the second year that its job mentoring phase has been offered. It has proven to be one of the most popular portions of the course.

Students have connected with their mentors right away, Zukin said.

One reason may be that the mentors give the students meaningful tasks.

I have been impressed with the responsibilities the mentors give the students right off the bat, Zukin said.

The students work with their mentors for two hours after school each Tuesday. The five weeks pass quickly.

They (the students) dont want it to stop, Zukin said.

The idea for the job mentoring program was developed by Pat Heriza of La Grande. Heriza developed the plan while doing work for a master of social work degree he is earning from Portland State University.

One of the objectives of the mentoring program is to increase the number of positive role models young people are exposed to. Zukin said that she has great appreciation for the employers who have volunteered to help with the program.

They have made a real commitment to working with kids, Zukin said.

In addition to Cherrys Florists, the following businesses and individuals are also participating: Oregon Trail Bicycles; Palermos; Union County Sheriff Steve Oliver; KCMB radio; Amazing Changes Hair Design; Granada Theatre; Foley Station Restaurant; Bryans Downtown Auto Parts; and Brian Kelly, urban forester for the City of La Grande.

Three more employers are needed for students who want to participate in the mentoring program.

Interested employers should call Zukin at 962-8835.