Mentors Erin Trim and Michele Onderko help mentees prepare a meal with the Youth Garden Project.

When Melissa Nerone moved to Moab to become a mountain biking guide, the former educator found she missed working with kids. So she became a mentor.

“I wanted to have a positive impact on kids here in town,” Nerone said.

Once a week for an hour after school, Nerone meets with her “mentee,” a third-grade girl to work on art projects together, play tennis, or throw a Frisbee – whatever the two of them decide to do for fun that day.

“Sometimes we’ll do cookie decorating,” Nerone said. “I’ll bake sugar cookies and bring in the toppings. She’s very creative.”

Grand Area Mentoring matches compassionate adults with children – all of whom need additional support – for an hour of companionship after school. Some play games, while others work on academics.

An orientation for adults interested in becoming a mentor, will be held January 27, 4:30-6 p.m. at the Helen M. Knight Elementary School, 505 MiVida Drive. Prospective mentors will learn policies and procedures, plus strategies for mentoring a child, said Grand Area Mentoring program director Daniel McNeil. The orientation is an opportunity to explore the possibility of mentorship, he said.

“You can come and learn and decide if you are a good fit,” said. “We want mentors (who are interested in) a long-term relationship.”

Currently there are 50 “matches” with more than a dozen children waiting for a mentor. McNeil said he hopes the orientation will produce 12 new mentors.

While mentors are asked to commit for a year, many volunteer for multiple years – with the same child – which is ideal, McNeil said.

Jim Webster, a crew member of Moab Search and Rescue, began serving as a mentor about 10 years ago, around the time Grand Area Mentoring was founded. He’s mentored three kids during that time, for multiple years each.

He partnered with his first mentee for about four years, he said.

“Then, he went into high school and got into sports, and different activities,” and they stopped meeting after school, Webster said. However, “I’ve kept track of him. I’m pleased to see him go off to college. That’s one of the things I like to talk to my kids about – that it’s something they can do if they want.”

Webster’s current mentee is a high school sophomore – the two have been a match for four years. This past year Webster taught the teen to play cribbage – a game they often enjoy after school. They also talk a lot, he said.

“That one hour is something we both look forward to,” Webster said. “I encourage anybody with a little bit of time and can make a regularly scheduled meeting. It’s very rewarding for both, mentor and mentee. I’ve really enjoyed it.”

As far as what they do after school, “It really depends on the kid, his interests,” Webster said. “Another boy I had was really into basketball, so we’d shoot hoops.”

The program takes place only during the school year, and at school. Matches do not meet in the summer, or during school breaks. Occasionally off-campus activities such as bowling, hiking, or eating in a restaurant take place, but only in a group with other mentors, McNeil said.

Nerone occasionally leads groups of kids at Adventure Park Moab’s high ropes course. The 40-foot “climbing wall is great for building confidence, and trust, and acquiring the physical skills helps kids feel successful,” she said.

Mentoring is “very rewarding,” Nerone said. “I get a lot of appreciation from my little gal.”

Danette Johnson has volunteered with the organization for about 10 years. She’s currently a mentor for two boys, one of whom she plans to help develop a science fair project, she said.

Ongoing advance training for volunteer mentors occurs every other month or so, McNeil said.

Grand Area Mentoring was started with a three-year U.S. Department of Education grant. Continued funding comes from the school district, and local businesses and foundations.

Grand Area Mentoring volunteer orientation set for Jan. 27

What: Grand Area Mentoring Orientation

When: Tuesday, Jan. 27, 4:30-6 p.m.

Where: Helen M. Knight Elementary School, 505 MiVida Drive

Information: 435-260-9646,; or email: