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Mentors steer children along the high road

When Federal Way Mayor Jack Dovey wants a different perspective on city issues, he asks a seventh-grader.

When the city was battling graffiti, the boy suggested that the city get tougher about catching and prosecuting the perpetrators.

“He gives me a great perspective that kind of shocks me,” Dovey said. “I’ve learned a lot about what’s going on in the community.”

In addition to soliciting the occasional bit of advice, Dovey plays Uno, chess and cards with the boy and talks to him about issues in junior high.

“I just kind of show up and I’m there to talk and listen,” he said.

Dovey mentors as part of the Personal Academic Student Support Program (PASS). The program is operated by the Communities in Schools of Federal Way and serves students at Mirror Lake and Star Lake elementary schools, Totem and Sacajawea middle schools, the TAF Academy and Federal Way and Thomas Jefferson high schools.

Organizers currently seek mentors for the 2008-2009 school year. Mentors meet with students for 45 minutes each week at the school. During their meetings, they may shoot hoops at recess or play games in the library.

“The most important thing is to develop a relationship with the child,” said Nicole Ham, PASS program coordinator.

Students are chosen to be part of the mentoring program by their school counselors. Some of the students have had problems with academics, a low interest in school, a hard time adjusting or behavioral issues. All of the students can benefit from having an adult they can look up to.

“Often times the students don’t have these role models in their lives,” Ham said. “A lot of these students are very excited about having an adult coming in.”

There are currently 30 mentors in the program serving 32 students. Ham said she hopes to raise that number to 60 mentors by the beginning of next school year.

Adults who can pass a Washington State Patrol background check are eligible for the program. They are asked to commit to mentoring for at least one year.

Caitlyn Remington, a 33-year-old Federal Way stay-at-home mom, has been a PASS mentor for the past two years to a girl who will enter high school next year.

“It’s just been a great experience,” Remington said. “It’s been wonderful just seeing her grow over the last two years and change and turn from a little girl into a teenager.”

The pair often play Yahtzee together as well as discuss life goals and experiences.

“She tells everyone that I’m her big sister,” Remington said.

“There’s been a lot of questions that she’s asked me that are kind of typical teenager questions that you don’t really want to ask your mom,” she said. “We’ve talked about drugs and sex and when she got her first period.”

Remington said that, at times, she has advised her protege to talk to her school counselor or her mom about certain issues.

Dovey said he hopes that more Federal Way residents will grow inspired to become mentors.

“Anybody that has an hour and 15 minutes once a week should think about mentoring. It’s a great experience,” he said. “We have a lot of children in those schools that could use a mentor.”

Contact Margo Hoffman: mhoffman@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

The Communities in Schools of Federal Way will host a PASS Mentoring information session from 6 to 7 p.m. July 9 at the Federal Way Regional Library. For more information, call (253) 838-2605 ext. 107.

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