Mentoring program offered

Marianne Gillespie
Elizabeth McCombs

If Chillicotheans have ever wanted to mentor a handful of young people, now may be a good time.

Goodwill GoodGuides, a youth mentoring program for ages 12 through 17, is coming to the Chillicothe area. Chillicothe Elementary Center will be the first Illinois Valley Central District 321 school to offer the program.

Elizabeth (Gajdik) McCombs, program manager for Goodwill GoodGuides, said the program not only serves at-risk students, but assists students in preparing for a career at an earlier age.

Some students cannot see past junior high, McCombs said, so the program assists them in navigating through high school, and preparing them for vocational training or post-secondary education.

The program can be tailored to assist students in building peer social skills, establishing relationships and addressing attitudes or bullying issues as well.

McCombs, a 1999 graduate of Illinois Valley Central High School, said she envisions CEC using the group model, which would be one mentor to four or five students.

Anyone can be a mentor to students, McCombs said, as people from all walks of life are needed – various business people, retired residents, stay-at-home moms and more.

Each mentor must have a background check and complete three-and-one-half hours of training.

Mentors would agree to spend one hour per week during the school year with the students, although they can go through the summer if they wish, McCombs said. A good number of mentors would be 10 to 15.

The national program began in January, and there are already 24 individually based groups in the Central Illinois area. With Goodwill known as assisting people with working, Goodwill Industries International received a grant late last year from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Delinquency Prevention. Goodwill Industries of Central Illinois is one of 56 to receive the funds, which come from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“This program has been such a cool thing,” said McCombs. “I think I could have benefited from it. When you’re growing up you don’t want to listen to your parents. With this, we’re supporting what the parents want, but you don’t have to be the parents.”

Goodwill offers free computer classes, e-learning, assistance to veterans and now career assistance to young people.

Goodwill’s mission is, “We improve the economic self-sufficiency of individuals and families through the dignity and power of work.”

For more information about Goodwill’s programs, visit the website To become a mentor, call McCombs at 369-9884.

If CEC parents want to enroll their children in the program, call Carli Jones at CEC at 274-6266.

“We need to start talking to kids at a younger age about their career,” said McCombs.