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January 2014 Mentor of the Month: Wayne Stelly!!

Wayne began mentoring in our program in 2012, and in that time he has mentored two male students, both in great need of a strong and supportive male role model and mentor. As an active cyclist, a mechanical engineer, and a charming conversationlist we knew he would be an amazing mentor from the beginning.

His first match was with a 7th grader from Goleta Valley Junior High. This partiuclar teenager was an incredibly smart kid, however, his friends weren’t the best influence. Wayne supported him academically, constantly reminded him of the importance of a good education, but also focused on encouraging him to choose his friends wisely and not succumb to peer pressure.

At the end of their one year match committtment his mentee had become more resilient to peer pressure, improved his grades, and become a happier and more successful young man. At this point they decided to end their official match but continue to stay in touch so he could always seek Wayne’s advice and guidance.

Wayne was immediately excited to take on a new mentee and chose a 6th grader in Goleta who was in desperate need of a positive male figure. During their match meeting they instantly connected and it was hard for me to get a word in because they had so much to say to each other. Right then I knew that they would be one of my best matches. Since that day they have continued to prove me right; meeting multiple times a week during and outside of school, working on academics and behavior, but also taking time to have fun and explore the world together. His mentee's teacher is excited to see a marked imrovement in his school behavior and homework and thanks Wayne for making it happen.

As you all know, finding male mentors is a difficult task, but finding a fantastic male mentor is even harder. That is why I’m so happy to have Wayne as one of our mentors. He truly cares about his mentees and always focuses on helping them reach their personal goals and introducing them to new activites. Thank you Wayne for being such a wonderful mentor! Congratulations on being our January Mentor of the Month!


Noozhawk Article Highlights National Mentoring Month and Fighting Back Mentor Program

Santa Barbara County declares January as National Mentoring Month and recognizes 20 years of great work from the Fighting Back Mentor Program. Read the full article!


January is National Mentoring Month! How you can get involved.


    1. Learn more about mentoring and become a mentor in your community.

    2. Make a donation to a mentoring organization in your community.

    3. Join "I Am a Mentor" Day on January 9 and share your experience on social media using #SomeoneWhoMatters. Please share it with us on our Facebook page!

    4. Share stories about mentoring in your community on our Facebook and social media using #MentoringWorks!

    5. Thank your mentor on January 16, during “Thank Your Mentor Day!” Think about the mentors in your life, send them a thank you card and tell them thank you on social media using #SomeoneWhoMatters.

    6. Read the latest research and find resources on mentoring.

    7. Serve your community on MLK Day of Service, January 20, 2014, by looking for a mentoring opportunity in your area.

    8. Partner with a mentoring organization to expand quality mentoring opportunities for young people in your community.

    9. Download and use all of the National Mentoring Month marketing and video materials to raise awareness and recruit volunteers.

    10. Explore ways to help children succeed academically through mentoring.

November Mentor of the Month, Mary Ann Helman shares story of mentee's transformation

Several months ago, while working at Villa Santa Barbara, Mary Ann Helman stood in the lobby when her former mentee, Itzell, walk in out of the blue. Mary Ann rushed over to give her a hug and ask her why she was there, to which Itzell responded that she applied for an job opening and today was her interview with the Executive Director. Even though they stayed in touch since their match officially ended several years ago, Mary Ann had no idea Itzell planned to apply at Villa Santa Barbara, and Itzell did not know that Mary Ann happened to work there.
There could be no greater proof of the impact Mary Ann had on Itzell’s life than this happy accident. Mary Ann was delighted to see her first mentee demonstrating such a drive to work and give back to the community just as Mary Ann always encouraged. With a little advice and support from Mary Ann, and an enthusiastic recommendation to the Executive Director, Itzell went on to ace her interview and earn the job on the spot. Now as they work together, Mary Ann treasures the opportunity to strengthen their bond as adults and coworkers and couldn’t wait to share their inspiring story with us at the Mentor Program.
When Mary Ann Helman was matched with Itzell in 2006, Itzell was in the 5th grade, and not doing well in school. She was one of those children that struggles to keep up, but isn’t failing badly enough, or causing enough disruption in the classroom, to warrant much attention. She was withdrawn, sat in the back of the classroom, and rarely participated. She wasn’t connected with others her age and teachers and counselors described her as being “in a shell.” The personal attention she lacked at school was also missing at home as her exhausted mother struggled to juggle work and taking care of her children. Luckily both Itzell’s teacher and her mother had recognized how helpful a mentor would be for her and emphatically supported her referral to the Fighting Back Mentor Program, leading to her match with Mary Ann soon after.
Today, 7 years after being matched with Mary Ann, Itzell is a healthy, happy, outgoing high school Senior; popular with schoolmates, involved in school activities, and getting nearly straight A’s. Not to mention her new internship at Villa Santa Barbara where she uses her talents to support her community. Much of this transformation is due to Itzell’s own strengths, but a great deal can be attributed to Mary Ann Helman’s mentoring at a critical time in Itzell’s life.
I had a chance to ask Mrs. Helman about her approach to mentoring Itzell, and how she accomplished what she did with her mentee.
“The first thing I did,” Mrs. Helman told me, “was take her to the library. I helped her find books she liked, and she started to read. And her schoolwork started to improve. My plan with her was to find out what she wanted, what she liked, and work from there.”
While Itzell was beginning to read, Mrs. Helman learned that she was interested in dance. Helman found that this was an opportunity to involve Itzell’s family, since her mother hoped she would become involved in Alma de Mexico, a traditional Mexican dance group in Santa Barbara. Mrs. Helman encouraged mother and daughter to take the opportunity to become involved in dance, and soon Itzell was performing as a new member of Alma de Mexico. Helman assisted, often taking Itzell to dance practice when her mother was unable to do so because of her work schedule.
As time went on, Mrs. Helman found ways to involve Itzell in other interests. Helman had friends who had horses, and they were willing to let Itzell ride and care for the animals. To help Itzell become involved with her classmates, Mrs. Helman came to the playground after school with soccer balls and organized games with all the children. One of Mrs. Helman’s most important initiatives was to involve Itzell in Helman’s volunteer activities. Mrs. Helman worked with the Performing Visual Arts Camp, the Santa Barbara Boys Choir, Our Lady of Sorrows Choir, and Villa Santa Barbara. She took Itzell to board meetings and activities, and Itzell became fascinated with volunteerism.
Mrs. Helman told me that she never missed a meeting with her mentee, throughout all their years together. As the years went by she involved herself deeply with Itzell’s family, often attending family occasions on their request. She also brought her Itzell into her own family, and Itzell even attended Mary Ann’s son’s wedding. Itzell received lots of one-on-one attention from Mary Ann, often much more than one hour a week, and through her constant attention and encouragement she blossomed into a incredible young lady. Mary Ann Helman’s approach with Itzell was always to accentuate the positive.
As she said to me, “I told Itzell she was smart, that she could do whatever she wanted to do. And in time, she would say back to me, ‘you’re right! I can do this!”
By the time Itzell entered Junior High School, she had recreated herself as a vibrant, connected and academically successful young person. Her principal remarked to Helman, “What a great transformation!” Itzell and Helman mutually agreed to dissolve their formal mentoring partnership, since both felt that the mentoring relationship had been successful and done what it was intended to do, and other young people needed Mrs. Helman’s attention. They never stopped communicating, however, and Itzell has gone on to be an exemplary student and participant in her Junior High School and now High School community.
Now they are seeing each other weekly again as coworkers at Villa Santa Barbara and Mary Ann shared with us how blessed she feels to reconnect with Itzell as a young adult, and experience what a beautiful person she has become. They are a perfect example of the profound effect that a mentor can have on a young person, and because of Mary Ann’s incredible commitment to helping Itzell and influencing her to give back to the community, they are now working together to make Santa Barbara a better place.