Mentor of the Year - Paula C. Dirkes
Mentor of the Year Award: honors an individual who provides youth (25 and under) with the confidence and assets to be successful.
PAULA C. DIRKES of Berkley became a mentor in 2000 when a speaker came to her church to recruit mentors for girls and boys. After some careful consideration, Paula asked herself, “If I don’t do this, who will?”, then stepped forward to volunteer. She has not only been an outstanding mentor since then, but she also reaches out regularly to the community to encourage others to mentor and has even published three books to encourage adults to get involved in mentoring children. Paula shares her own mentor experiences and stories as a backdrop for her guidebooks. Paula later launched her own social enterprise company, Solid Pathways Consulting, LLC, to support the missions of youth organizations by encouraging adults to get involved with kids who are missing a positive role model. Her mission is to make youth mentoring a social norm, rather than the exception. One of Paula’s mentees, Charlotte, was self-conscious and quiet when the two were introduced. After discovering Charlotte’s love for musical theatre, Paula took her to every play they could fit into their schedule. Charlotte has since gone on to participate in two community plays, and is in rehearsals for a third this summer. “Paula took a girl who was skittish and afraid, almost too nervous to leave the house without a parent,” recalls Charlotte’s mother, “And with compassion, thought, and love, helped create a girl that is outgoing and unafraid to be her own person.”