County Pulse: Stanislaus County leaders believe mentor program makes a difference

January 10, 2014 

    alternate textKen Carlson
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: County government, health and medicine, air quality, the environment and public pension systems
    Bio: Ken Carlson has worked 13 years for The Bee, covering local government agencies in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties. His in-depth reporting has focused on access to health care and public employee pensions.
    Recent stories written by Ken

Stanislaus County’s employee mentor program has reached a 15-year milestone. Since fall 1998, county staff members have gone to schools to guide students who are falling behind or need some extra attention.

With a cost to Stanislaus of about $1,000 a year, county leaders believe it’s a government program with the power to change lives. Community partners such as Lions Club, Rotary and United Way are involved with the effort; participants have invested 22,600 nonwork hours at local schools over the years.

“We believe it helps these young people prepare to make the transition to middle school,” said Keith Boggs, a county assistant executive officer and program leader. “Middle school is when the more analytical work starts. Some students can struggle and get lost with the seven periods a day and seven different teachers.”

Of the 142 adults who are mentoring third- through sixth-graders at six local schools, 88 are county employees and the rest are volunteers from the community, Boggs said.

Mentors spend 40 minutes at their designated school twice a week, working individually with students who have reading gaps or come from difficult homes.

The mentors read with the students, or may help them with homework or a subject they struggle with, such as math or language, Boggs said. It helps for the students to know there’s an adult who believes in them. Children with poor attendance records are usually there for mentoring days.

“It’s the old adage that you can’t learn unless you are there,” Boggs said.

To ensure continuity, the program today uses teams of two or three adults who are matched with students. With that approach, even employees in the district attorney’s office, which has a heavy workload of criminal cases, have taken turns serving as mentors.

Boggs said a new project will focus on middle schools. Adults will tutor students at Prescott Junior High School in Modesto in partnership with the Center for Human Services and United Way.

The mentor program always is looking for community volunteers. Potential mentors are fingerprinted and approved after a background check. Those interested may call Boggs at (209) 652-1514.

Valley med school sought

State Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, introduced a bill to speed up planning for a medical school at UC Merced. The proposed medical school could turn out doctors to bolster health care in the San Joaquin Valley.

Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, and Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, are co-authors of Cannella’s SB 841.

Along with funding a two-year planning effort for the medical school, the legislation would strengthen University of California programs designed to provide health services to Valley residents.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at or (209) 578-2321.

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