OKLAHOMA CITY – Thirty-one outstanding Oklahoma mentors, including several from Southwest Oklahoma, are being recognized by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and their community mentoring organizations during National Mentor Month in January.

The honored mentors were submitted by their respective mentoring organizations across the state, and each received certificates of achievement from the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. The certificates are being presented in the communities where the mentors volunteer.

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence is a statewide nonprofit that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. Through its statewide mentoring initiative, the foundation promotes the growth and development of quality youth mentoring programs. The foundation works with school districts and mentoring organizations to promote mentoring as a positive step toward academic success.

“Mentor in Real Life” is the theme of National Mentoring Month, a campaign sponsored by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership to celebrate the power of mentoring relationships and recruit new volunteer mentors. The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence provides a directory of mentoring organizations across the state seeking volunteers. For more information and a list of this year’s honored mentors, visit www.okmentors.org.

Those from Southwest Oklahoma include:

John Albright, Cache, is not only recognized as a dedicated youth mentor in his pairing with R.J. through the BEST! Mentoring program in Cache, but also as a mentor through his church, youth camps, and an after-school archery program he founded.

Albright and mentee R.J. share a special bond. They both love martial arts and attend the same martial arts academy. They enjoy playing games and are very competitive, Albright is the checkers champion, while R.J. is the Battleship champion. Lunch time together is another favorite activity for the pair.

Albright is the owner and operator for Albrights Heating and Air Conditioning in Indiahoma. He has been praised for helping expand the BEST! Program into other small schools in his region.

BEST! (Building Extraordinary Success Today) Mentoring pairs positive role models with middle and high school students to help youth develop life skills and explore career opportunities. Sponsored by the Cache Schools Education Foundation, BEST! Mentoring works to empower youth in our rural communities to explore future career opportunities and make positive life choices that will lead to becoming successful citizens upon graduation.

Jean Schalit, a Duncan retiree, is the outstanding mentor for Link ONE Mentoring, ONE True Light Inc.

Schalit has been a dedicated Link ONE mentor since the start of the program and has been matched with mentee Kaden since he was in third grade, six years ago.

Schalit and Kaden meet weekly for lunch and enjoy playing games together and talking. Kaden’s mother shared, “Jean has been a fantastic role model for not only my son but for me as well. She is one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met. Such a blessing to my family as well as others.”

Schalit said she has gained a new perspective on how different it is growing up today than it was in her day or even her 57-year-old daughter’s day.

“My purpose for mentoring was to be the person for Kaden that I needed when I was a child,” Schalit said. “I realized early on that Kaden’s world was harder than mine, and that he did indeed need one true and loyal friend.”

Link ONE Mentoring is the cornerstone project of One True Light, a nonprofit connecting local churches and concerned citizens to meet the needs of Duncan Public Schools’ students. Link ONE mentors volunteer once a week, providing support and encouragement, lending a listening ear, and helping students form a positive vision for their future. They may provide academic support or simply help to boost the child’s self-esteem by being a dependable positive adult role model.

Jeff Elbert, Lawton is co-sponsor of Young Men in Action (YMIA) and Gentlemen of Lawton High School (GoLHS). Combined, these programs serve nearly one hundred students, working to provide these young men with mentoring and to strengthen their character and leadership skills.

As a math teacher at Lawton High School and Lawton’s “Rookie Teacher of the Year,” Elbert has had the opportunity to help mold students lives as a teacher, wrestling coach and sponsor to several organizations.

“Jeff has been instrumental in ensuring that we, as an organization, address an issue each year that is vital to ensuring that our young men have the resources they need,” said program co-sponsor Kenneth Stallworth. In the last two years, the group has served dinner to those less fortunate at the Salvation Army Thanksgiving Dinner, conducted a clothing collection drive, delivered care packages to veterans and participated in a financial literacy program.

Young Men in Action and Gentlemen of Lawton High School are school-based, coach-led programs at Central Middle School and Lawton High School, respectively, that teach young men about personal responsibility, accountability and healthy choices.

Danielle Nickell, a Lawton senior majoring in accounting at University of Oklahoma, is the outstanding mentor for the JCPenney Leadership Center in OU’s Price College of Business. She serves as director of Peer Trainers for the JCPenney Leadership Center. In her role as director, Nickell is a “mentor of mentors,” not only providing training and guidance to peer mentors but also to their 62 new candidate associates.

The JCPenney Leadership Program has a reputation among the business community and company recruiters for continually producing professional, well-rounded and culturally competent associates who are prepared with the skills they need to succeed in business.

The JCPenney Leadership Center has several programs focused toward developing organic and natural mentoring relationships. Among them, the Peer Training Program offers a student-designed and led curriculum focused on seven foundational leadership and professional development programs.

Jim Linker, Manitou, a retired history teacher and principal from Vernon, Texas, is the outstanding mentor for Southwest Oklahoma Juvenile Center in Manitou.

Jim Linker is a retired history teacher and principal, serving the Southwest Oklahoma Juvenile Center for 18 years. Since his retirement in 2014, Linker has continued to serve as a youth mentor for the center.

Linker’s dedication and passion have contributed to the success of the mentoring program at the center. Mentees describe Linker as a good listener, teacher and role model who understands their problems.

The Southwest Oklahoma Juvenile Center is a medium-security state facility operated by the Office of Juvenile Affairs. The center houses 60 young men between the ages of 13-19 who have been adjudicated by the courts as juvenile delinquents or youthful offenders. Many young men at the center come from disadvantaged or chaotic homes and have had little if any positive male role models in their lives. Mentors can meet with the young men one night a week from 7-8 p.m. Many mentors come as individuals and some participate as groups, such as Kairos Prison Ministries and the Christian Motorcycle Association. In addition, church groups regularly volunteer to provide Sunday services and faith-based activities and offer support and encouragement to the young men at the facility.

Carina Friedl, Marlow, a procurement specialist for Halliburton Services, is the outstanding mentor for Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma.

Friedl has been involved in mentoring girls through her work as a Girl Scout volunteer for 12 years. During that time Friedl has served as a leader for a multi-level troop, mentoring the girls in her troop, and as a Service Unit leader, mentoring other troop leaders in her area – indirectly impacting many other Girl Scouts beyond her own troop.

Through Friedl’s mentorship, many girls from her troop have pursued and received the Girl Scout Bronze and Silver Awards, which require community service and active leadership.

Girl Scouts is the preeminent leadership development organization for girls. With programs from coast to coast and across the globe, Girl Scouts offers every girl a chance to practice a lifetime of leadership, adventure and success.

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