Friends of Youth needs mentors

Linwood Martin
Friends of Youth Program Supervisor Linwood Martin

“We all had a mentor at one time,” Linwood Martin told Home in Henderson near the outset of our interview with him.

According to Martin, the Program Supervisor for the Friends of Youth program run through the Henderson-Vance Recreation and Parks Department, most of the referrals made for youths needing mentors are African-American males. Therefore, there is a correspondingly desperate need for African-American male mentors.

Matters of ethnicity, however, do not stop him from matching needy children to mentors. The waiting list for a mentor is currently 34 children deep.

“I match them any way the mentor feels comfortable,” he said.

Martin, a retired Navy counselor, has been in his position since July of 2006 since retiring from service after 24 years. After enlisting in the Henry A. Denis Building, he shipped out from Henderson to California.

“It was my second time out of state,” Martin commented.

After tours of duty in California and Washington state, he did three overseas tours. He then recruited in Greensboro and Norfolk, Virginia.

He then boarded a CG48 guided missile cruiser.

“If I was home two months out of the year, it was a good year,” Martin quipped.

A father of three, his son, Linwood Jr., a Marine, shipped to Iraq over a month ago. His daughter Crystal is in the Navy in Japan and daughter Latasha recently graduated from Vance-Granville Community College and will be pursuing her four-year degree.

Martin said that he learned a lot during his time in the Navy, and that the children with whom he works enjoy PowerPoint presentations on his military career. They also appreciate his collection of foreign currency, which he once allowed a child to borrow so that the student could earn extra credit.

The program supervisor believes strongly in exposure to positive things.

“The right things at the right time,” Martin said, paraphrasing the title of the book The Right Words at the Right Time by Marlo Thomas, which Martin said was given to him by a retired colonel.

“You’re never too old for a mentor,” he told Home in Henderson.

Upon taking the position, Martin instituted a tutoring program with a focus on homework which he runs two to three days a week.

There are currently five mentors in the program, all of whom are female. One is a retired teacher and two are students at Vance-Granville Community College.

“I haven’t found that oil-gusher of mentors yet,” Martin said, although he frequently attempts to recruit mentors at various public events.

Events and programs for children include:

* Trips to Adventure Island.

* A banquet at the Masonic Children’s Home in Oxford that included programs from Franklin, Granville, Warren, as well as Vance County. Over 230 attended and the children gave speeches.

* Trips to the gym.

* Bag lunches in the park.

* Developing interest in tennis.

* Bowling.

Martin said that a lot of his discussion with the children he serves tends towards talk about bullying, teasing, anger, respect, self-esteem, and making healthy choices.

“Self-esteem is a big one,” Martin said. “Some kids can’t see past the county line.”

Because of his Navy experience, Martin has many videos from overseas that he shows his students. He likes to give them positive exposure, to show them things and talk.

“They do open up and talk,” Martin said. “Everything I do with them, I try to teach them something.”

Those wishing to volunteer as mentors must go through a multi-step process which begins with a questionaire, an application, an interview, an authorization for a background check, and four hours of training.

After that is completed, Martin allows prospective mentors to make the decision as to whether or not an individual wishes to commit to mentoring.

“The worst thing is to introduce them to a young person and have them withdraw,” Martin noted.

The program asks for a committment of only two hours a week, but Martin confided that he would settle for one good hour. He stressed that longevity is important, and that he asks for a committment of one school year.

Those willing to give of their time to help a troubled Vance County youth should contact:

Linwood Martin
Friends of Youth Program Supervisor
P.O. Box 1556
300 S. Garnett Steet
Henderson, NC 27536