Local News

Lack Of Funding Could Ground 'WINGS' Mentoring Program

Posted February 12, 2006 6:50 a.m. EST

— A program that pairs at-risk girls with female mentors faces an uncertain future after the education grant that helps fund it was cut out of the federal budget.

For 10 years, Women Into Nurturing Girls, or WINGS, has helped girls ages 9 through 15 deemed "at-risk."

The grant, which expires March 31, pays for the two-person WINGS staff to recruit and train mentors and coordinate monthly events.

"I can't tell you where it goes in my soul to know that these girls have been a part of something so positive and that it's just going to be over that quickly," said WINGS Program Director Mary Tanski.

The program currently has nearly 20 matches, including 14-year-old Jasmine Garlin, with 40 girls on a waiting list.

Garlin says her mentor, Penny Young, helped change her attitude. They spend three hours a week volunteering at an animal shelter, going to the mall or just "hanging out."

"I'm more into school, now," she said. "My grades have come up a lot. So, it's really good."

"I try not to be judgmental or anything," Young said. "I want to be more of a friend than authority figure."

The program has seen success. About 46 percent of those being mentored have earned higher grades; 94 percent say they do not use alcohol or marijuana; and nearly 90 percent report they don't use cigarettes.

Improvements are traced back to spending quality time.

"It's letting each and every mentee know that they can be successful," Tanski said.

Tanski said she hopes other grants and private funding sources can keep the program going on its $110,000 operating budget. So far, however, there are no replacements for the federal grant.