In 2000, a group of concerned parents, teachers and community members came together to explore ways to support students who were recognized as “falling through the cracks,” at McNear Elementary School in Petaluma, California. These youth were struggling to succeed academically, often due to at-home challenges, including mental and behavioral health issues and family challenges such as unemployment, incarceration and drug use. Supporting these youth was all the more challenging when the California Department of Education cut funding for elementary school counseling services, leaving a lack of support and guidance for many students whose life circumstances made them particularly vulnerable to academic failure and participation in risky behavior.
In 2001, the McNear Mentoring Program was started. Carefully selected adult mentors supported three mentees that year. Additional Petaluma schools were added to the mentor program, and in 2004 the program’s name was changed to Mentor Me Petaluma. In 2014, the name was changed to Mentor Me to support youth beyond Petaluma.
In 2014, Mentor Me took over management of the Cavanagh Recreation Center, a 12,000 square foot community center owned by the City of Petaluma. After over $300,000 in renovations, the facility, which was built in 1959, has emerged as the go-to place for our mentees and their mentors, offering opportunities for educational enrichment (cooking classes, art/music programs, sports), for academic tutoring services and career exploration, and to receive college admissions coaching. In addition, the Center serves as the Mentor Me administrative offices and provides income for the organization by renting spaces within the facility for all kinds of events. The Mentor Me Cavanagh Recreation Center is located at 426 8th Street in Petaluma. We welcome the public to come in for a tour.