By Kathryn Rice

The Tri-C mentoring program has affected the lives of Jefferson students, adults and Conception Seminary students since its founding in 2001.

Sponsored by the Tri-C Coalition, which combines the citizens of Clyde, Conception and Conception Jct. in Nodaway County, it is one of many youth-focused projects undertaken by the coalition during its 30 years.

Jacob Peery, Landen Miller and Jayce Holtman are three Jefferson sixth graders in the mentoring program.

The program, which started as part of a seminary class, has expanded to include not only seminarians but other adults in the Tri-C area. Participation by the seminarians is no longer required, but many of them volunteer, some of them for the entirety of their college careers.

“The Tri-C Coalition is strongly committed to the mentoring program,” Treasurer Mary Kay Sullivan said. “We saw a need to start the program. The teachers at the school were behind it and we’re excited that we have succeeded.”

Hope Pappert, Jefferson High School and Junior High math teacher, has acted as mentoring coordinator since 2005. She is responsible for the yearly grant application and coordination of mentors with students.

Mentors meet with their assigned student once a week during lunch at Jefferson. A monthly group event is planned for mentors and their students. In the past, these events have included attending a play at the seminary, bowling and a community clean-up day.

The program is open to any Jefferson student who would like a mentor. Some students are recommended for the program by teachers, while others come to the program through parental requests. Parents must approve their student’s participation. Currently, 25 students are taking part.

Sixth grader Jacob Peery said he enjoyed the play at the abbey. Four of the seminarian mentors were in the show.

“It was really cool,” Jacob said. “I like entertaining people. It’s good to know that my mentor has similar interests.”

“Ben (my mentor) and I are so much alike,” Landen Miller, sixth grade, said. “It’s nice to have a sibling who’s older than me. We both just like to relax and hang out. He’s always been my mentor and is interested. He came to one of my academic meets and one of my concerts. He’s very invested in me.”

“It’s a good excuse to connect with the kids,” Jefferson Secretary Sandy Wilmes said, who has been a mentor since 2002.

Wilmes is sixth grader Jayce Holtman’s mentor. This is Jayce’s first year in the program.

“I went with her to Halloween at the teen center,” Jayce said. “We went to St. Joe out to eat and to watch a movie. If I have to talk to someone, I can talk to her at school.”

“Which is the whole point of the program,” Pappert said.

“I don’t think I’d be as happy today as I am without Ben,” Landen said. “I remember the day I met him. I thought, ‘I wish I had a mentor,’ and a little bit later, I had Ben. I wish it was my first year because Ben will be graduating soon.”

“It’s awesome having someone to talk to,” Jacob said.

“We have data to prove that students have stayed in school because of the mentoring program,” Pappert said.

“I see the mentoring program as a good way to make newer friends and to get closer to God through other people,” sophomore Dalton Luke said, who has been part of the program since fifth grade.

Senior Clayton Wilmes has been in the program since fourth grade.

“It’s nice to meet different mentors and it’s cool to see where they’re from,” Clayton said.

Dalton and Clayton enjoy playing dodgeball and basketball at the JPII rec center at the abbey.

Junior James Teague has had three seminarian mentors.

“I like the mentoring program because you get to meet all these people,” James said. “They’ve grown up in different areas, had different families and took different paths to end up in the same place.”

All of the Jefferson students get the opportunity to interact with all of the mentors.

The mentoring program is funded through grants, pancake breakfast fundraisers and donations from individuals. To make a donation, volunteer as a mentor or sign up a Jefferson student for mentoring, contact Pappert at 660.582.9878 or at the school.

“No matter what it is, having someone to talk to is always beneficial,” James said. “Especially people with the mindsets of the mentors.”