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The Mentoring Project helps shape the lives of at risk kids

The Mentoring Project began in Portland, Oregon and has since branched to Oklahoma City. Online Photo
About 50 kids in the Oklahoma City FACT program are waiting to be paired with mentors. Photo by Abby Bellow
The Mentoring Project is the brainchild of best-selling author Donald Miller, and is helping shape the lives of at risk children throughout Oklahoma City.
Miller founded the Mentoring Project in 2008 in Portland, Oregon, and in 2009, John Sowers took leadership and expanded the organization outside the state. In January 2013, The Mentoring Project reached Oklahoma City, and the organization recognized Oklahoma City as an ideal location to grow.

Since then, the organization has recruited and trained men and women in the Oklahoma City area to mentor at risk, fatherless children.

The program works in conjunction with the Oklahoma City Police Department’s gang prevention unit called FACT, which stands for Family Awareness Community Teamwork. The officers look for kids who struggle with truancy and appear to be heading down the wrong path. The Mentoring Project pairs mentors with kids from the FACT program.

Jill Pfeffer, Oklahoma Christian University alumnus, is a mentor for a 5th grade girl through the organization.

“Each week I pick her up from her house and we pick something to do together,” Pfeffer said. “We’ve been to the bombing memorial, we’ve been ice skating, we’ve gotten our nails done, or we will go to dinner together and talk about life.”

Pfeffer encourages her mentee in school through incentives she creates based on her report card. She said one of the most rewarding aspects of mentoring is seeing her mentee have the motivation to do better in school.

“I think just having someone consistent in her life pushing her and telling her that she’s a smart girl and she can do it has motivated her,” Pfeffer said. “I have really loved watching our relationship grow. It grew slowly, but my favorite thing is just seeing her smile and us having fun together.”

Each year, Oklahoma recognizes the outstanding work of mentors from over 50 different programs statewide during the Oklahoma Mentor Day at the Capitol building. This past year, The Mentoring Project recognized Jill Pfeffer as the Mentor of the Year. Pfeffer and her mentee spent the day at the Capitol eating breakfast and listening Kevin Durant’s mother speak.

According to sophomore Lillie Dutcher, mentoring proves to be not only rewarding for the mentee, but for the mentor as well.

Dutcher mentors a 2nd grade girl at Stanley Hupfeld Academy. Dutcher said she has experienced first hand the impact mentoring can have on fatherless children growing up in struggling environments.

“She really doesn’t have anyone helping her with her school work at home, so she’s not used to having someone sit down and help her work,” Dutcher said. “It’s really rewarding to see her improve in school and be so excited to see me each time.”

The mentored children based on their environment usually lack consistency in their lives. Therefore, building trust can be very difficult among mentors and mentees.

“Even now she will ask if I’m coming back next week even though I’ve been coming every week for two years,” Dutcher said. “She’s still surprised every time she sees me walk in the door.”

Oklahoma Christian faculty member, Kent Hartman has served as a mentor to children with rough backgrounds as well.

“Some of these kids come from families maybe without a mom or a dad, from families with a lot of drama going on,” Hartman said. “Sometimes all they need is someone to just show them a little bit of love and concern, to be engaged with them and help them focus their life a little bit more. I believe all of our students can do that and it can really make a difference in kids’ lives.”

Bruce Doane serves as the Mentor Care Director for The Mentoring Project. He joined the team in 2013 when the organization opened its offices in Oklahoma City and his job entails establishing and maintaining relationships with active and prospective mentors, as well as the churches that partner with the organization.

Doane works behind the scenes to help equip and prepare mentors to be a life-changing tool in the lives of the children they work with.

“We like to say mentors win by showing up,” Doane said. “The relationships don’t always bloom immediately. These kids have a revolving door of adults that come in and out of their lives, so the main key is just being consistent.”

Doane said he encourages students to get involved in the project as there is a significant need for mentors.

“Our big goal for 2015 is to match 25 new mentors, which is a little over half of what we need,” Doane said.

Currently, about 50 kids in the Oklahoma City FACT program are waiting to be paired with mentors.

Oklahoma Christian students can get involved with The Mentoring Project by applying to be a mentor, or a spring or summer intern.

For more information about The Mentoring Project or how to get involved, email Bruce Doan at or visit their website.

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