Community Leadership Awards finalists: Mentoring excellence

Sep 15, 2013 @ 12:01 am

DAVID L. GREY

David L. Grey, owner of Grey Investments LLC in Beverly, Mass., never forgot what it was like to grow up in a financially strapped single-parent household.

He worked 30 hours a week as a teenager to help support his family, and watched his brother suffer from undiagnosed schizophrenia.

Mr. Grey's difficult experience made him acutely aware of the mental health needs of children.

Six years ago, he signed up as a mentor for Children's Friend and Family Services in Salem, Mass., which provides children's mental health services, youth mentoring, teen parenting support and juvenile court services.

Mr. Grey's involvement grew.

As board chairman from 2007-09, he modernized the organization's policies and procedures, and led a strategic planning process that allowed the agency to double its revenue. Mr. Grey and his wife donated $10,000 to allow mentoring program participants to get involved in activities such as driving lessons or computer classes.

However, the children's needs run much deeper.

“There are kids out there with post-traumatic stress disorder — that shocked me to learn,” Mr. Grey said.

Even in the affluent northern suburbs of Boston?

“It's not just in urban areas where kids grow up witnessing violence and dealing with drugs,” Mr. Grey said. “We have dozens of kids in this area waiting for mentors.”

BRETT W. HOGE

When Brett and Wendy Hoge were newlyweds, they started their family in an unusual way — they signed up with Big Brothers Big Sisters (Winston-Salem) for a “Little Brother.”

Mr. Hoge is a senior managing director with BB&T Scott & Stringfellow in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Since welcoming their first Little 11 years ago, the Hoges have mentored two more boys.

“We incorporated them all into my family,” Mr. Hoge said. “When our daughters were born, the boys automatically treated them like little sisters.”

He has served Big Brothers Big Sisters as a board member and successful fundraiser, bringing in about $115,000 since 2002.

Mr. Hoge, himself raised by a single mother, empathizes with the needs of Littles and is concerned about how they may be viewed.

“Sometimes there's a perception that the kids have problems,” he said. “They don't. There's a comprehensive screening process for Bigs and parents — police background checks, personality tests, interests, etc. And the Littles must have an actively involved parent.”

The organization's biggest need is for professional minority mentors, since 75% of the prospective Littles are African-American and 20% are Hispanic, according to Mr. Hoge.

He has seen a positive effect.

“My two older boys are planning to mentor middle-school boys themselves,” he said.

JEFFREY L. ROTSKY

As a college student, Jeffrey L. Rotsky mentored middle-school kids, and his passion for the work has become an integral part of his life.

He and his wife, Gina, established the Rotsky Foundation for Mentors 22 years ago, when he was just 26.

The structured program begins in eighth grade, and mentors and protégés are expected to participate for five years. It is unique in that matches are based on both personal and vocational interests.

“Seeing is believing. When the kids see how we live every day — watching surgeries, learning about the stock market, meeting a judge — it makes the future tangible for them,” said Mr. Rotsky, now a senior vice president for Morgan Stanley Wealth Management in Cleveland.

There are 100 mentor/protégé teams at a middle school in inner-city Cleveland.

The program has continued to grow and succeed. More than 400 kids have participated, with 80% staying in for the required five years; 96% of those continuing their education.

Another sign of success is the fact that many former protégés return to become mentors themselves.

“Mentoring becomes contagious. It grows on you,” Mr. Rotsky said.

“It's a feeling you never want to let go of.”

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