Club FRIEND (Friendly Relationships in Each New Day), a unique teen-directed mentoring program in Community Unit School District #300, places friends in the lives of children who might otherwise go home to empty houses. Introduced in 1993, the program taps the special interests and skills of its teen volunteers to build strong and supportive friendships with young elementary students they mentor in a safe, friendly and caring environment.
Club FRIEND's teen volunteers, ranging in age from 13 to 18, develop structured prevention, recreational and educational after-school activities for elementary students aged five to 10. The teen volunteers commit two and a half hours a day for five days a week. To accommodate this requirement, they structure their high school schedules for a community service class, which meets the last period of the school day. This provides planning time for them as well as instructional time in leadership and other related skills.
The teens develop activities based on a weekly theme. The messages of wellness, education and positive education delivered to the children through the activities provides the vehicle for creating lasting friendships among teens and their young charges. The activities are multi-cultural and intergenerational and can be easily replicated by other communities. Family and community involvement represent strong components of the program.
The primary goal of Club FRIEND is the prevention of crime, violence and drug/alcohol use by the youth in District #300, a highly diverse district located 35 miles northwest of Chicago that educates 15,198 students from rural, suburban and urban settings. The teen volunteers benefit from the program as well. As they perform this valuable community service and explore career options, they learn leadership and communication skills, parenting skills, organization, commitment and responsibility. Many find lasting friendships that continue even after they leave the program.