Cheney Free Press -

Staff Reporter 

Mentoring program has big growth spurt

For information on becoming part of the Prime Time Mentoring program on the West Plains contact Jessica Deutsch, 509-342-0747 or email: For other information on the mentoring program contact Alise Mnati, 509-828-9950 or email:


Paul Delaney

Prime Time Mentoring volunteer coordinator Jessica Deutsch, seen outside of Salnave Elementary School, helps coordinate the newly expanded program in the Cheney School District.

In a twist on the old "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" axiom, those that run the Prime Time Mentoring program might want to promote the importance of what they do with their own catchy line.

An hour a week may pave the way, perhaps?

"If you mentor an at-risk child four hours a month, which we're doing at the lunches in the elementary (schools) they will more likely graduate," Alise Mnati, the program's quality director said.

With that in mind, Communities in Schools of Spokane County is working to expand its reach with more mentoring. And there's both a significant emphasis and growth being seen in the Cheney School District.

"In the past we've only had mentoring in Cheney at the middle schools," volunteer coordinator Jessica Deutsch said. "This year we kind of revamped the entire mentoring program."

It now spans all but one school in Cheney. The only school in the district that is not included is Windsor, but it is in line. "We were trying to baby-step into it," Mnati said.

The mentoring program at Westwood and Cheney middle schools has been very successful. So much so that Spokane Public Schools wanted to implement it. "They helped us write a grant to Empire Health Foundation," Mnati said.

The program is just a year old and started with seven schools, including Westwood and Cheney middle schools, plus Grant, Regal, Roosevelt, Sheridan and Stevens elementary schools in Spokane. "Because of the success of the program we're going to be in 20 schools," Mnati said.

The mentoring program has two different looks and goals.

At the elementary level it's a lunchtime event lasting an hour. In the middle and high schools it takes place after school and lasts about two hours.

Lunchtime mentors come in, have lunch and chat. "They meet in a separate area so they're not with the whole population of the school," Deutsch explained. What to do with the next block of time, about 30 minutes, is up to the mentee, whatever they would like to do with the mentors.

In the higher grades the focus is more on the future. These sessions have facilitators and have more of a group element to them. Topics tend to be more pointed towards careers and college. "Kids have dreams but sometimes they don't know how to get to those dreams," Mnati said.

"We're working with the at-risk youth and the school counselors to identify the kids they would like in the program," Mnati said. From there students are matched with a mentor.

The goal at all the elementary schools was 10-15 students and the middle schools was 25-30, Deutsch said. At Cheney High the goal is 15 in a program that will begin in December.

"Our goal was to have 100 matched in Cheney Public Schools and 250 in Spokane Public Schools," Mnati said. "We are about 100 shy of our 350 goal."

The qualifications are simple to become a mentor. They must be 18 or older and high school graduates. Some Running Start students wanted to take part, but, "We need to have adults because sometimes the kids are dealing with adult issues," Mnati said. "Sometimes teenagers don't even know how to handle that themselves."

The importance of mentoring to at-risk students is prevalent and well researched. Dr. Donna Beegle, an expert on the culture of poverty, has determined it didn't matter where mentees lived, the inner-city, covuntry, African-American family or white; it didn't matter what their demographics were, but they all said what helped them get out of their situation and go to college, see a future, was a positive role model.

"People will tell you every person who has come out of poverty or at-risk situations you ask them what was something that helped you get through that," Mnati explained. "They all have a common denominator; they all had an adult role model."

Paul Delaney can be reached at


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