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BLN starts new mentoring program, hires coordinator

Posted: Tuesday, Mar 14th, 2017

Uinta County Business Leadership Network Executive Director Wanda Rogers and Program Coordinator Anna Kunz said they’re excited about Mentor Match, a new program the UCBLN is spearheading, thanks to a federal grant that allows funds for the program and also allowed the BLN to hire Kunz to coordinate the program. The program will match struggling students with disabilities with mentors to help keep the students out of the juvenile justice system. (HERALD PHOTO/Mandee Leonhardt)

EVANSTON — The Uinta County Business Leadership Network was recently granted a three-year federal grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice for Mentor Match, one of the three programs the UCBLN offers and administrates.

UCBLN Executive Director Wanda Rogers and Program Coordinator Anna Kunz said they are very excited about the grant.

The UCBLN has been around for 19 years. The organization works with local businesses to employ people with disabilities. Its youth initiative is called MentorAbility in which they work with youth who have disabilities to prepare them for employment.

The grant funds will help get Mentor Match off the ground.

The UCBLN is part of a national organization called the United States Business Leadership Network (USBLN). Two years ago the UCBLN was recognized as the Affiliate of the Year.

An organization in Boston that also works with youth who have disabilities contacted the USBLN for an affiliate with a strong mentoring program. In turn, UCBLN was called upon.

“The main focus of this grant is to work with youth with disabilities that are at risk or in the judicial system,” Rogers said.

UCBLN has partners in Boston, New York, California, and Wyoming.

Rogers has been working alone at the organization, along with volunteer board members, for the last four years. Thankfully, Rogers said, now that they were given the grant, Kunz was able to be hired to manage the program.

Kunz was hired less than a month ago as the coordinator for the Mentor Match program. She has already made plans that will benefit the organization.

“We want to be able to provide monthly workshops for the mentors and the mentees and bring the community together,” she said.

The workshops Kunz and Rogers are planning will help some of the struggling students in the community so they can graduate and pursue goals beyond high school.

“What we will do is work with the school district and the judicial system and have them make recommendations of the students that we will work with,” said Rogers.

The organization is currently looking for mentors. They are going to local businesses, looking for volunteers to help with the youth in Evanston. Their main goal is to start out with 30 mentors and mentees in Evanston.

Kunz said they are going to try to get another 30 mentors and mentees in Bridger Valley. The goal at the end of their grant period is to have at least 90 mentors and mentees.

For this particular program, the BLN will work with kids between the ages of 11-17.

“We want to hopefully get in with an early intervention,” said Kunz.

“A large percentage of inmates in prison are people with disabilities,” Rogers said. “Mentoring is a very powerful thing. This program is a little different than our other program because it is long-term mentoring.”

UCBLN is looking for role models for the youth to show them positive experiences. Requirements to be a mentor include meeting with them via social media for three or four hours a month and four to six hours of one-on-one time. Those interested in mentoring should contact the UCBLN office at (307) 783-6302.

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