The Mentoring Project's #MentorToolkit has allowed several groups to start and / or enhance their own mentoring initiatives. Those who use TMProject's resources are considered Mentor Link organizations, and our Mentor Link Spotlight series will highlight those programs and their successes. Today we feature Anna Purpero of The Paper City Mentoring Project in Chillicothe, Ohio.
Tell us about yourself and how The Paper City Mentoring Project came about.
Anna: Like many people who recognize the value of mentoring, my story shifted when a trusted adult showed up for me in high school. Where I lacked stability and confidence, my mentor stepped in and zeroed in on my strengths and value. I became a high school English teacher and organically began to mentor the teen girls who would stick around in my classroom. My colleague and best friend was also passionate about mentoring teens, and we decided that the impact a mentoring program could have on the community was worth the risk of quitting our jobs, so we did. In November of 2016 we opened Paper City Coffee, a coffee shop in Chillicothe, OH which would fund The Paper City Mentoring Project.
What is the mission of The Paper City Mentoring Project?
Anna: Many high school students are exposed to unhealthy home environments and are likely to continue generational cycles of addiction, poverty, crime, and other risky behaviors. The Paper City Mentoring Project exists to pair trained mentors with teens who could use someone in their corner. Teenagers who have consistent support from mentors are more likely to have higher self esteem and make healthier life decisions. They are also more likely to mentor teens in the future, creating a ripple effect for positive change in our community.
Currently we have 25 high school students in the county matched with trained mentors, and they often hang out at our coffee shop for their weekly meetings. We also have quarterly family dinners where mentors and mentees are served by community organizations and monthly adventures designed to strengthen the bond between mentor and teen. Our goal is to help teenagers discover their potential and worth in a simple way: with a consistent, committed adult encouraging them and investing in their lives.
What makes The Paper City Mentoring Project unique?
Anna: Our program is unique partially because it gives the entire community an opportunity to be involved. Paper City Mentoring Project is funded by Paper City Coffee, so customers of the coffee shop know that every purchase they make goes toward the impact on local teenagers. The coffee shop not only exists to fund the mentoring project, but also serves as a space for mentors and teenagers to meet weekly. This model is called a social good company and allows the nonprofit to be self-sustaining. People love our coffee, lunch, and baked goods, but they also know making Paper City Coffee a regular part of their day contributes to a positive change in the lives of teenagers right in their neighborhoods.
How have you used The Mentoring Project's Mentor Toolkit and how has it benefited your program, staff and mentors?
Anna: Since PCMP began in November of 2016, we have used the Mentoring Project’s Mentor Toolkit to train and equip our mentors. We meet to watch the videos, and all potential mentors read the Field Guide. We have found these resources to be the most practical in training, offering not only theories behind the mentoring model, but also real-life scenarios and how to establish a healthy, successful mentoring relationship from start to finish.
You also recently hosted a Mentoring Matters Workshop and invited TMProject's President John Sowers to contribute. Please tell us more about that.
Anna: We hosted the Mentoring Matters Workshop in April with three goals:
- encourage and equip current mentors in our program, providing them with extra training
- recruit new mentors for Paper City Mentoring Project by communicating the mission
- equip community members to see mentoring opportunities outside of our program, in their current settings
John Sowers came as a keynote speaker, sharing his story and vision for mentoring youth. I think the most effective aspect of his visit was a more intimate luncheon he had with about 20 mentors in our program. They were able to share challenges and breakthroughs and he was able to offer insight on how to sustain sometimes difficult relationships.
Perhaps the most effective segment of the workshop was our local panel, a group of adults who have been investing in teens for years, some now mentors in our program. We heard from local youth pastors, teachers, librarians, college professors, and welcoming parents. They all had unique perspectives on dealing with teens who have experienced trauma, establishing boundaries, giving back to the community, and what it means to show up for teenagers and earn their trust.
We owe a great deal to The Mentoring Project for the success of our program because from the very beginning, we have utilized the toolkit to structure and think ahead. We have also utilized the staff, who have been helpful in answering questions about unique mentoring dynamics. There aren’t many resources available for those interested in starting programs in this area.
How can others find out more about The Paper City Mentoring Project and get involved?
Anna: More information can be found on our website. This link includes mentoring applications and opportunities to donate or volunteer to host a PCMP event. You can also email us: firstname.lastname@example.org. We are on Facebook and Instagram (@papercitycoffee).