Kadena Youth Mentor Program helps kids stay on the right path
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Price Berill’s eyes light up as he spins around after knocking down his spare. A slap on the back coupled with words of congratulations spring from his bowling partner’s mouth.
“Good job,” says Air Force Master Sgt. Alando Respress, reaching for his own bowling ball.
Both appear quite serious about the game; they own their own bowling shoes.
Although there is a bit of difference in the bowling scores and their ages, both are here to connect, bond and talk. Bowling just makes it more fun.
Price was one of the first kids enrolled in the Kadena Youth Mentor Program, which is modeled after the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. The Kadena program, now with 22 enrolled, was developed by Elaine Daly-Rath, Air Force Installation Dependent School liaison, and is open to children of U.S. military, Department of Defense civilians and civilian contractors on Okinawa.
“There are outlets for teens,” Daly-Rath said. “However, the mentor program is a prevention and intervention program.”
Without a father figure around, Price’s life took a turn for the better when he was teamed up with Respress about six months ago. The two recently met up at the Emery Lanes Bowling center on Kadena Air Base to celebrate Price’s 15th birthday.
“I felt it was appropriate to match the two,” said Daly-Rath. “[Respress] has great insight on various teen life issues and is very talented with interacting with teens.”
They meet on a regular basis and mainly talk about things Price wants to talk about.
“We talk about everything,” Respress said. “Some of our discussions include family, friends, high school, college, recent events, sports, coping mechanism, short-term/long-term goals, road-blocks and challenges in life.”
And while the program is geared to help the children, it has meaning for mentors as well.
“Being that positive role model for Price has also made a difference in my life,” Respress said. “Most of all, it provides intrinsic satisfaction ... it makes me feel good that I am able to positively impact someone else’s life.”
Between games, Respress hands Price a birthday present. A smile stretching across his face, Price holds up the two shirts he has just received.
“Thank you,” the teen says to his mentor and friend.
Putting down the shirts, Price reaches for his ball.
“We meet about twice a week and do different things all the time,” Price says as he eyes the pins. “This is my favorite, though.”
“The program has been great for my son,” says Lori Berill. “He hasn’t had a father figure around for a while. It has been great for him to have that person to throw a football around with and talk guy things that he can’t talk to me about.”
Daly-Rath said she expects the program to grow as more parents inquire about it now that school has started.
“It’s all about prevention,” said Dr. Anne Lamoureux, psychologist at the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa. “If they get support early on, they will make well-informed choices in the future.”
“As military members, we have a responsibility to take care of our families ... our entire military family,” he says.