Meet Jessica: Mason City Youth Taskforce

Mentor Spotlight Jessica PrazakWe love collaboration!

Since 2012, we’re proud be a part of the greater North Iowa Mentoring Collaborative along with One-On-One and NIACC’s RSVP programs. All of our mentoring programs are actually certified by the state’s Iowa Mentoring Partnership and our partnership gives us all opportunities to connect, attend trainings, apply for grants and plan activities.

For example, our North Iowa Collaborative recieved a grant through the Office of Juvenile Justice & Deliquency Prevention (OJJDP) to specially serve 11-15 year-olds.

One individual we work closely with is Jessica Prazak of the Mason City Youth Task Force. Next month Jess is sending us to the Minnesota Mentoring Conference. We’re excited about this learning opportunity and thought it would be fun to feature Jessica:

How long have Bridges and the Mason City Youth Taskforce had a partnership?
“Since 2003. We’re going on our eleventh year.”

What are your main responsibilities as the Mentoring Collaborative Coordinator?
I run the One-On-One Mentroing Program, manage program budgets, recruit mentors, coordinate trainings and oversee outreach programs.”

What are you looking forward to this coming school year?
“We’re working on coordinating teams to pilot a new group mentoring program. We’re also excited about partnering with local businesses to involve them with volunteer opportunities in mentoring.”

Is there anything you’d like to share about your family?
“I have  an eight-year daughter and 10-year old son. They both enjoy coming to the group mentoring outings. My husband Jake and I own NIP Fitness in Mason City. Jake is a world record-holder in bench pressing.

Jessica Photo

What is your favorite book?
“Growing-up my favorite book was Charlotte’s Web. Now, I’m encouraging my kids to read it and hope they enjoy it as much as I did.”

What is your favorite summer activity?
“Every summer we look forward to getting together at a cabin in Northern Minnesota for a family reunion.”

If you have further questions for Jessica, contact her by phone at 641-421-2708 or email at jprazak@masoncity.net. Just like Bridges, One-To-One is always in need of caring adult mentors to serve Cerro Gordo County children.

Preventing Substance Abuse in Mitchell County

Substance abuse among youth is a significant problem in Mitchell County.

According to data from the Iowa Youth Survey, Mitchell County youth reported significantly higher 30 day alcohol use than the average Iowa student. Along with the Mitchell County school administration & Mitchell County Substance Abuse Coalition, we at Bridges want to help prevent substance abuse within our community.

We invited Jay Pedelty of Prairie Ridge Addiction Treatment Services to present at our final Bridges Speaks workshop. Pedelty is a Certified Prevention Specialist and Prime for Life Instructor who has extensive experience working with young people.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Foundation for the Enhancement of Mitchell County (FEMC), we were able to offer this event free of charge to the community and include a meal.

Jay Pedelty Lecture 2

Jay’s interactive presentation demonstrated how prevalent alcohol’s advertising is in our communities & media. The advertising of alcohol features cartoons that appeal to kids and substance abuse is normalized on billboards & greeting cards.  This all serves to reduce young people’s’ perception of the substances’ risks.

We learned the most abused substances include alcohol, prescription drugs and marijuana. Substance abuse rates correspond with availability which is why many are concerned about issues surrounding the legalization of marijuana. Learn more about Jay’s thoughts on the issue in this recent KIMT interview.

As Bridges Mentoring Program moves forward, we want to increase our efforts to prevent substance abuse among youth in our community. Research proves that mentoring works! A Big Brothers Big Sisters study found that youth who participated in a mentoring relationship for 18-months were more 46% less likely to use illicit drugs than those without a mentor, and 18% less likely to consume alcohol under the legal age.

For more information about substance abuse prevention & recovery resources, visit Prairie Ridge’s website. You can also attend a Mitchell County Substance Abuse Coalition meeting held on the 4th Tuesday of each month at 4 p.m. at the Mitchell County Services Building in Osage.

Contact us to learn more about how you can donate your time, talents or resources to our mission of creating meaningful mentoring relationships in Mitchell County.

*Special thanks to Jay Pedelty for donating his time and insight, FEMC for sponsoring the event, Signatures Supper Club of Northwood, Iowa, and the staff at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church of Osage, Iowa for offering their space as a location

What Have Our Mentors & Mentees Been Up To This Past Month?

Fall is upon us.

We’ve had a busy month planning next year’s activities, coordinating our Bridges Speaks trainings and launching our new fundraiser. Our mentors and mentees also have busy summers and just transitioned back into school and extracurricular activities. Still, they always seem to find ways to connect with each other. Here are some of the fun activities they did together this past month:

  • Attended a Vikings practice in Mankato, MN.
  • Visited the CRC to use exersize equipment & play raquetball
  • Partipated in Bridges’ Well Aware Wellness event & cyberbullying workshop

August Bridges Events Collage

  • Went golfing (SunnybraeAcorn Park offer a generous discount for mentors who take their mentees golfing. Contact us with questions)
  • Prepared caprese salad with summer tomatoes
  • Visited the Mitchell County Fair
  • Volunteered at the Kiwanis BBQ at the first Osage home football game.

Kiwanis Collage Edited

  • Biked to Subway for supper
  • Got pedicures
  • Picked out a bulletin board for the mentee’s room
  • Played at the local park
  • Played board games
  • Finished building a bean game game. These mentors noted how diligently their mentee worked to produce these stunning boards. 

Board Game Project

  • Swam at the CRC
  • Picked and prepared sweet corn
  • Baked zuchhini brownies
  • Helped a mentor with a bridal shower decorating project.

Bridges mentors and mentees enjoy a wide variety of activities, from special outings to board games at home. We encourage our mentors to simply invite their mentee to join them in every day activities.

How is your school year beginning? We love hearing from our mentors, families and community members. Contact us at anytime. We are always happy to connect.

Bridges Is A Comment For A Cause Recipient

p1150878We’re honored that Beth chose us as the recipient of her blog’s September “Comments for a Cause.

Beth is a Mason City resident who writes the blog It’s Just Life: Finding The Extraordinary In The Ordinary.  Each month, she features a charity organization to which she and her husband donate fifty cents for each comment someone leaves on her blog.

50 cents per comment!

How cool is that? In July, she raised $240 for The Davidson Centre for the Professions and in August, she supported Mason City’s Northern Lights Alliance for the Homeless’s efforts to build a women’s shelter all through Comments for a Cause.

shareasimage-43

During the month of September, you can raise money for Bridges by leaving a comment on any post in Beth’s blog. All funding will support our efforts to match school-aged children with mentors in Mitchell County, Iowa.

Beth updates her blog almost every day with encouraging and random content about all aspects of life. You’ll have fun reading it and can easily leave a comment by scrolling to the very bottom of each post. Look for this box and comment away.

Comments for a Cause Box

If you have Facebook or Twitter, you can log in by clicking on the icons. Otherwise, enter your email and name so that the computer knows that you are a real person, not a spammer.

Thank you for commenting for Bridges!

Preventing Cyberbullying

Have you or a family member ever been a victim of cyberbullying?

Before presenting at our event, Sara Broers, owner of Social Connections took a quick poll of those from North Iowa (and beyond) and found that 66 percent replied, “Yes.”

Cyberbullying is a pervasive issue everywhere and North Iowa is no exception. As Bridges staff, we’ve heard parents and school staff describe their struggles dealing with cyberbullying and hoped Sara could provide some understanding and advice on the topic.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Foundation for the Enhancement of Mitchell County, we were able to host Broers and invite the community to attend free of charge. Here’s what we learned about cyberbullying:

Lacey into Cyberbullying

Bridges Program Coordinator Lacey introduces Broers

What Exactly Is Cyberbullying? : According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, cyberbullying is defined as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones and other electronic devices. Examples include sending harassing text messages or posting a photo of someone without their permission and making fun of them online.

Which Apps Are Popular Cyberbullying Platforms? : Broers feels parents should be concerned if they find apps like Kik, Yik Yak, Ask.fm, Secret & Tinder & Snapchat on their children’s phone and iPads.

What Should A Child or Youth Do If They Are The Victim Of Cyberbullying? Tell an adult like a parent or teacher. Save the email or text message instead of deleting it! Don’t forward it on to others. If you are an adult and it’s serious, connect with law enforcement. If you are unsure, talk to someone.

How Can We Prevent Cyberbullying?

  • Whether you are an adult or youth, Broers emphasized being nice online and offline.
  •  Broers advised students to notice what color their teacher’s eyes are on the first day of school. They will appear confident and sit taller.
  • Know which apps your children are using and don’t be afraid to set limitations. For example, if your child has a Facebook account, make it mandatory for them to “friend” you.
  • As a parent, YOU are ultimately responsible for the phones/iPads/computer accounts you pay for. You truly need to know how your children are interacting with others online, not only their their safety, but because you are liable for the  activity on their account.
  • Teach children empathy. How would they feel if they were in the other person’s place? Teach and practice kindness. Kindness matters.
  • Stand up to bullies: We all need to peacefully stand up together against bullying behaviors instead of just being bystanders or ignoring these behaviors. For example, Broers described a situation that occurred in North Iowa where a youth was bullied and beat-up on a school bus while the other youth egged it on and took phone videos. What a difference we could make if we all said no to bullying.

Sara Presenting Cyberbullying

Finally, Broers reminded us that online interactions can also lead to good things! If your child enjoys being online, help them connect with positive role models and those who are experts in their fields of interest. Help them find people who provide encouragement and wisdom.

If you would like to contact Sara for further information, visit her Social Connections website. She shared a lot of important information about preventing cyberbullying and empowering our children to know how to appropriately respond if they should encounter a cyberbully.

Additional Resources:
Cyberbullying Research Center
Dr. Michelle Borba
11 Possible Signs of Cyberbullying