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‘Never a dull moment’

Nine-year-old Rebecca loves horses. All animals, really (she even wants to be a veterinarian someday), but especially horses. That's one reason why she and her mentor, Therese Perro, are such a perfect match. Therese has a friendly quarter-horse,...

Mentorship
Therese Perro and her mentee, nine-year-old Rebecca, pose for a playful picture at Goose Gang on Monday. Marie Johnson/FOCUS

Nine-year-old Rebecca loves horses. All animals, really (she even wants to be a veterinarian someday), but especially horses.

That’s one reason why she and her mentor, Therese Perro, are such a perfect match. Therese has a friendly quarter-horse, Sonny, which Rebecca – or Becca, as she’s usually called – is learning to ride.

The young girl, whom Therese describes as charismatic, animated and outgoing, was so happy the first time she was able to ride Sonny by herself that she had tears in her eyes.

That big moment happened about two months ago, at the Perham area farm where the horse is boarded. Becca and Therese visit that farm often, not only to ride Sonny but also to see the other animals there. Sometimes they bring Becca’s younger brother, who is on the waiting list to receive a mentor himself, but mostly, it’s just the two of them.

Besides visiting the farm, they love to go roller skating at the Perham Area Community Center, swim, bake, play games and attend group activities planned by Kinship. In the summers, they enjoy combing the beach near Therese’s home on Big Pine Lake to find washed-up ‘treasures’ along the shoreline.

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“She’s open to anything,” said Therese of her adventurous mentee. “We have so much fun together. There’s never a dull moment.”

The two have been paired up through Perham’s Kinship mentorship program for the past few years. They first met through Kinship’s Reading Buddies program, through which Therese read books to Becca twice a month during the school year. They got along well, and Therese became the girl’s mentor soon after.

Therese was already involved in youth programs in Perham. Active with the local Boys and Girls Club, she works as the manager of the Re-Use-It Thrift Store, a fundraising operation for the club. She had already served as a mentor for Kinship before, and loved the program. She was in need of a new pairing after her first mentee moved out of the area.

Becca said she was “definitely excited” after finding out that Therese would be her mentor. She describes her grown-up friend as “very nice and caring.”

The Kinship program matches volunteer adults in the community with kids who could benefit from having another positive role model in their lives. The director of the local program, Jill Shipman, has a reputation for being a good ‘matchmaker,’ finding mentors and mentees who suit each other’s personalities and temperaments.

Mentors are asked to get together with their kids about twice a month, for at least one year, but many relationships established through Kinship last much longer than that. Some former mentees are still in touch with their mentors years after becoming adults themselves.

Kids usually spend time on a waiting list before the right mentor is found. Right now, that waiting list is about 30 kids long. More local mentors are always welcomed.

“Our community needs more awareness of Kinship and the children that are in need of mentors,” said Therese. “It allows you to share your passions and be a positive role model in a child’s life. Helping a child to build their self-esteem and confidence will give them the skills they need to guide them in the right direction.”

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She described the mentoring experience as “rewarding and fulfilling” for the volunteers. For her, it’s been a meaningful and worthwhile endeavor.

“As an adult, we can always look back on our life and remember that person who made a difference to us,” she said. “I want to be that person for Becca.”

According to Becca, Therese already is that person. Her mentor is exposing her to new life experiences and helping her reach her full potential.

Take those horseback riding lessons, for example. Becca was apprehensive at first, but Therese taught her to believe in her capabilities and encouraged her to keep trying.

In the end, Becca said, “I learned that anything is possible if you practice... Therese is the best Kinship (mentor) on planet Earth.”

For more information about Kinship, visit kinshipperham.com or call Jill Shipman at 346-7102.

Mentor 2
After years of practice, Rebecca was able to ride Therese’s horse, Sonny, independently for the first time about two months ago – an achievement that made her so happy it brought her to tears. She might never have had the opportunity to ride had it not been for the local Kinship mentoring program. Marie Johnson/FOCUS

A writer, editor and mom of four (two kids, two dogs), Marie's been in the newspaper business for over 20 years. She started at the Detroit Lakes Tribune in 2017 after working just down the road at the Perham Focus for several years. Before that, she was at the Herald-Review in Grand Rapids, Minn.
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