PALs ... give back

“One of my first thoughts on Wednesday mornings is that this is my mentoring day,” PAL Program mentor, Craig Wilbourn said.

Wilbourn and fellow PAL Program volunteer, Brandon Choate, have both returned to Sequoyah School, the school of their youth, to become mentors.

“I really enjoy mentoring at Sequoyah, because it is where I attended school and where my little brother is attending the 7th grade. It is a great feeling being able to give back to a school that you have such close ties with,”said Choate.

Both Wilbourn and Choate were high school athletes and can still name their favorite Sequoyah teachers. Among those teachers is Betsy Wright who now serves as Sequoyah Elementary counselor. Wright is involved in the process of identifying students who could benefit from a mentor and is extremely pleased to have former students as mentors.

“I'm thrilled to watch these Sequoyah alumni return to their former school and make a difference in the lives of younger students,” Wright said.

Wilbourn is a 2002 Oklahoma State University graduate and is employed with Centrilift as an engineer in the motor products group.

“My dad has been a mentor for the PAL Program for over two years. After hearing about his experiences as a mentor, how much he enjoys his time with his student, and the importance the mentoring relationship is for these kids, I decided to become a mentor myself,” Wilbourn said.

Choate is employed with RCB Bank as a loan review officer and is working toward a business administration degree from RSU.

Mendy Stone, Volunteers for Youth executive director, said, “The PAL Program is fortunate to have many mentors from Centrilift and RCB Bank. These businesses understand the importance that mentoring makes to the youth in our communities.”

“I have enjoyed each meeting with my mentee. We talk, play catch and enjoy different games. We have a lot of fun, and I just hope I am able to be a positive influence,”said Choate. “I know the program could use more men to volunteer as mentors, and I would encourage others to consider giving an hour out of their week to do what I’m doing,”he added.

The PAL Program is the school-based mentoring program offered by Volunteers for Youth. Mentors are needed in Catoosa, Chelsea, Claremore, Foyil, Sequoyah, Justus-Tiawah, Oologah and Verdigris schools. Volunteers for Youth is supported by Rogers County United Way, grants, fundraisers and individual contributions. Although the program is offered within the school districts in Rogers County, it is not financially supported by the public schools.

Information provided by Mendy Stone, PAL executive director.

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