Pillen Unveils $5-M Mentoring Grant Program


     Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen has unveiled a proposal to spend $5 million dollars a year in tax dollars to create a new competitive grant program to help long-established, youth-focused organizations recruit mentors for thousands of kids.

   The grants would be available to organizations that have offered mentoring services for at least 15 years. Funds would be awarded based on the number of children an organization serves.

     Pillen said mentoring gives hope to kids and he’s excited about the opportunity for the Legislature to pass a $5 million mentorship grant program to quickly expand mentoring across the state. 

Joining Pillen at a new conference were 9 organizations that would qualify for the program, including 100 Black Men of Omaha, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and the godfather of Nebraska mentoring programs Teammates.

     Pillen said he played football for Teammates founder Tom Osborne, he’s served on the Teammates board, and both he and his wife have been mentors – so he knows the impact mentoring has on both the child and adult.

The first focus of Pillen’s mentoring initiative would be expanding the number of volunteers helping young elementary school students with reading skills. Pillen said an extra hour of reading a week would help the 25% to 30% of Nebraska students who are behind on reading proficiency

    Pillen also issued a Mentoring Proclamation that he hopes will jumpstart a renewed push to find more mentors even before the hoped-for approval of the grant program.

Pillen said he had already spoken with the director of his Policy Research Office about state employees pledging to volunteer time to mentor in local schools.