>> ... Next Generation ...
Mentors wanted for Mentor Connection at JFS.
VIVIAN HENOCH I SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS
et me tell you about my
Like a proud papa, Brandon
Pomish pulls out his cell phone
to show off a photo of an adorable
8-year-old wearing a Pistons jacket and
a huge grin. "Look how handsome he
is," Pomish says, "and he's extremely
Pomish, 30, is not yet a dad, but
he's smitten all the same with a child
he's taken into his life through Jewish
Family Service (JFS) and a non-sectarian
program called Mentor Connection.
As a mentor in the program, Pomish
has committed to spending a couple
of hours with his "mentee," Matthew,
at least twice a month for a year of
activities they both enjoy. For them, it's
been Pistons and Tigers games, movies
and museums, trips to the zoo, batting
cages and golf ranges, a first visit to
Lafayette Coney Island, lots of Lego time
and ice cream. Together they laugh. And
they talk. About school, about life.
Talking about the match made over a
year ago, Pomish says, "I still try to see
him once every two to three weeks, and
if I could, I would hang out with him
An Opportunity To Give Back
As business development director at PCI
One Source Contracting, and with the
construction business coming back to
life in Detroit, Pomish is indeed a busy
guy. Beyond his business concerns, he
is an active volunteer in the community.
Pomish's connections to the Detroit
Federation include his service on the
board of NEXTGen Detroit and as a
member of the Capital Needs Committee,
the Security Committee and, most
recently, Federation's Partnership2Gether
Committee — a move that will take him
to business meetings in Israel this coming
How does mentoring a young boy fit in
with Pomish's busy life?
"You put yourself out there, heart
and soul," he says. "We can talk about
rebuilding our community, but sometimes
it takes a personal, one-on-one
commitment. I've chosen to be a mentor
to a boy who doesn't have a father in his
life. There are many children and young
teens like my little guy on the waiting
list, still in need of the kind of support
56 September 5 • 2013
Brandon Pomish, right, and his buddy, Matthew
many of us would gladly give — if only
we knew. So I'm doing whatever I can to
help make the connections and to recruit
mentors, like my friend Ryan Fishman and
others from NEXTGen Detroit. I figure
if 500 people show up for a NEXTGen
event — and we can recruit a few people
to the program, we can at least fill some
of those gaps."
Challenging the NEXTGen community,
Pomish continues, "The leadership has
done an excellent job of engaging and
energizing the Detroit young community.
I would like to see NEXTGen take it to a
new level. There's so much need."
Checks And Balance
It's All About The Match
"I think our match has been an
overwhelming success, and I expect our
relationship to last," Pomish says. "Kudos
to Mentor Connection for finding such a
compatible match for both of us."
According to Emily Croitori, program
coordinator of Mentor Connections
at JFS,"Each person in the program
coordinator role has a master's degree
in social work. We know what — and
who — we're looking for. Brandon came
to us passionate about the program and
with an interest in recruiting some of his
peers. We knew he'd be the right person
for Matthew, and a real boost to the
Supporting families throughout
Oakland Country for nearly 10 years,
Mentor Connection was established
in 2004 with a three-year grant of
$500,000 from the U.S. Department
of Education. Since its inception, the
program has touched the lives of
more than 400 young people between
the ages of 7 and 17, through the
was not available at the time, but
recommended the woman they ultimately
hired. And, as luck would have it, this past
February, the doors opened once again
According to Croitori, one of the true
joys of her job is interviewing prospective
mentors and hearing their stories.
"Mentoring isn't for everyone," she
says. "The time commitment can be a
challenge, but the investment of four to
eight hours a month with a young person
can be an immeasurably rewarding
experience and a great way to give back
to the community."
Current mentors in the program
range from age 23 to 70-something.
The match process itself is intense.
Mentors go through a rigorous interview,
a background check and a two-hour
training session before meeting their
"We don't match our children on
the basis of first-come-first-served,"
Croitori says. "The process can take
some time because we're very careful
about identifying and matching interests,
personalities and geographic locations."
Brandon Pomish, mentor
continued support of JFS as well as
grants from United Way for Southeast
Michigan, Jewish Women's Foundation of
Metropolitan Detroit, Phillip and Elizabeth
Filmer Memorial Charity Trust and other
A Metro Detroiter with a master's in
social work from the University of Michigan
and almost a decade of experience, first
as a social worker in the Waterford School
District and then as a residential counselor
for teenagers and young women in
Nashville, Tenn., Croitori returned to Detroit
almost two years ago.
As Michelle Malamis, former director
of the Mentor Connection, explained,
Croitori had "come full circle," stepping
into the very job Malamis had offered her
when they first met at a conference in
Washington, D.C., back in 2004. Croitori
Safety and compatibility are the first
priorities of the program. While there's
no "formula" other than same-gender
matching, the program follows policies
and procedures based on national
standards as well as the research of
Mentor Michigan, a part of Michigan
Community Service Commission — where
JFS is involved at the leadership level.
"There are a lot of checks and balances
built into the standards of our programs,"
Croitori says. "After we've made the
match, we work equally hard to sustain the
relationships. In the first year, for example,
we call to check in on a regular basis with
our mentors, the parents and the kids.
Beyond the initial screening and training,
we schedule group support sessions to
discuss topics of interest. And, we plan at
least three to four events for mentors and
mentees throughout the year."
The fact that more than 40 percent of
the matches initiated through Mentor
Connection have grown and blossomed
into long-term relationships speaks to the
quality and sustainability of the program.
The support of volunteers, business
partners and funders in the community also