Several area coaches have joined others from throughout the state as volunteers to mentor young pople in their communities for the Oklahoma's Coaches' Mentoring Challenge. Coaches Jimmy Skender from Asher, Bruce Harrell from Maud, Jason Murray and Chuck Peot from Tecumseh and Jon Hadley, Pam Fletcher, Jeff Shelton, and Lincoln Dearing from Seminole will be participating this year.

In it's third year of participation, the Challenge is a four-month campaign led by Oklahoma coaches and mentoring organizations as a means to connect adults and children through mentoring.

“The real winner in this challenge is Oklahoma children who will benefit from the positive relationships and many positive outcomes that mentoring brings,” said Boren Mentoring Initiative Director Beverly Woodrome. “We are grateful for the many Oklahoma coaches who helped promote mentoring in their communities, and we are thankful for the many mentoring programs in our network that participated and reported new mentor totals.”

The Challenge was started in 2008 as a friendly competition between Coach Tom Osborne at the University of Nebraska and Kansas State University coach Bill Snyder. University of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy have spearheaded Oklahoma's involvement in the nationwide effort.

According to MENTOR, the National Mentoring Partnership, it is estimated that one in three children in the United States are in need of a mentor – someone to listen, to encourage and to set a positive example for them. In a survey of state mentoring organizations, the Boren Mentoring Initiative found that the greatest challenge facing mentoring programs was a shortage of volunteers. Woodrome noted that volunteers are needed to serve young people from Pre-K through young adults in college and career tech.

The Boren Mentoring Initiative is a statewide nonprofit program of the Oklahoma Foundation of Excellence to recognize and encourage academic excellence in public schools, lanched in 2006. The initiative has created a directory of more than 160 mentoring partner organizations statewide and works with those organizations to recruit volunteers, offer resources and promote mentoring best practices.

“We are happy to meet with schools, churches, businesses and others interested in starting a mentoring program in their community,” Woodrome said. “Through a statewide survey of mentoring organizations, we found that the most positive program outcomes were improved academic performance, positive mentor-mentee relationships, improved behavior, increased self-esteem and greater enrichment opportunities for participating youth.”