Make a difference – become a mentor

Article and photo by Jeannie Briones

TULALIP, Washington- Mentoring another person is one of the greatest gifts you could give them; there’s almost no better feeling in the world than to help another person accomplish their dreams. And to a child, having another caring adult in his or her life, someone who believes in them and supports them, can be life changing.

In recognizing the importance of mentoring in a child’s life, staff at Tulalip Tribes Youth Services is working to implement the 7th Generations Mentor Program, a program specifically designed for Native American youth and open to Tulalip tribal members age 10-17. And equally as impressive, out of 565 federally-recognized tribes in the United States, the Tulalip Tribes was chosen by the Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention to be one of ten recipients of the 7th Generation Mentoring Grant, which is instrumental in funding this project.

“The goal of this program is to reach out to Native American youths and guide them towards healthy lifestyle choices and to build lasting relationships between tribal youth and caring adult mentors, through group and cultural activities and on-on-one mentoring,” said Saundra Wagner, Tribal Mentoring Specialist.

Youth Service’s staff is asking for volunteers, age 18 and above, from the community to serve as mentors. These mentors are required to have a current driver’s license and a background check will be done on each individual. Mentors will also participate in a two-hour training, designed for learning about relationship building. Mentors will learn how to build confidence in Native youth through affirmation of their skills and values and to help youth understand the tribal history, culture, and value systems that have guided their people for generations.

A good mentor–mentee relationship takes time to develop, and volunteers are asked to spend at least one hour a day, twice a month, with the youth. Mentors and kids will take part in fun activities like going to the movies, shooting hoops or just hanging out and talking, and to promote Native culture, workshops such as drum making will be available. Monthly meetings with staff, mentors and mentees will be held to discuss progress, future development and weekly activity suggestions, to help sustain and strengthen mutual mentoring relationships

“Research and evidence shows that developing a strong sense of cultural identity and pride for their heritage can motivate tribal youth to make positive life choices. Our goal is to enhance the cultural identities of our tribal youth in hopes for reducing risky behaviors,” said Saundra.

Still in the early stages of the mentor program, staff is working to fill their calendars with fun, educational and cultural workshops and outings for the youth, and is open to suggestions from parents and the community.

If you are interested in becoming a mentor or if you know of a young person that might benefit from this program, contact Saundra at

“I am really excited to have the opportunity to get this program going; to see a child’s confidence and behavior change because they have a bigger sense of belonging. These youths are our future as tribal leaders, mentors, and positive members of our community,” said Saundra.


Jeannie Briones: 360-716-4188;