On Tuesday night, the Interfaith Center kicked on its heaters for the Higher Education Resources and Opportunities in Schools pasta dinner.
The dinner is an annual fundraiser for H.E.R.O.S. Other fundraisers the group holds include a bake sale scheduled for April 8 and an Applebee's fundraiser, to be held March 23 according to the group's Facebook page. The funds collected from each of these events will be used to monetarily support the H.E.R.O.S. mentors as they drive around Livingston County befriending and advising local middle and high school students.
"The club pairs Geneseo students with students in Geneseo Central, Nunda and Dansville [school districts]," sophomore Kara Johnson said. Johnson is in training to become a coordinator and undertook the dinner as her first task.
"We provide academic and emotional support. It's for kids that need someone to talk to who isn't an authority figure, like a parent or a friend, who wouldn't be able to give them proper or appropriate advice."
The club members that serve as mentors to these children generally express interest in the club around the time of the Student Organization Expo at the beginning of each fall semester. They fill out an application and meet with a guidance counselor at one of the schools, and are matched with a student based on basic compatibility.
Once assigned, the mentors receive constant training and advice. "We have a G.O.L.D. program that we're all required to go to," Johnson said. "Also, there's a resource office in the G.O.L.D. room that has all sorts of information on colleges and the college search, so we're able to pass that advice on to our students."
The proceeds from the dinner will be used to reimburse mentors for gas expenses incurred in visiting the placements every week. The dinner was not merely a fundraiser, though; it functioned as a means of raising awareness for the H.E.R.O.S. program. The mentors who acted as waiters and conversed with the diners and one another are clearly group of close-knit volunteers.
In addition to working on fundraisers and community builders, the club members hold confidential meetings twice a week with the students they mentor. During these meetings they talk about the students' progress and share any problems that have come up. The students also have the opportunity to ask for advice on handling different situations that they are facing in life.
"In our most basic sense, I would say that we're a community," Johnson said. "Maybe I don't personally know the student someone is dealing with, but I want to help them. It's all a part of putting these students ahead of ourselves, and helping them with their own futures."