BROOKVILLE — Kim Rhodes, executive director for the Mentor Parent Program said bullying has become an “epidemic.”
To address the need she has seen first-hand in the community, her program will host a bullying walkathon this year that will take place in Jefferson County.
“Bullying is a big thing across the board and across the world,” Rhodes said.
The Mentor Parent Program is a community-based parent project created in 1989 by parents of children with special needs to support, assist and provide expertise to parents in rural northwest Pennsylvania.
Based out of Clarion, the program covers 13 counties and 17 school districts in rural Pennsylvania.
Tuesday, the Jefferson County Commissioners proclaimed the week of March 19-23 as Mentor Parent Program Week.
“Again, the program is honored to have another proclamation week in the county,” Rhodes said. “We are looking forward to doing some good fund-raisers. We’re busy and working diligently with schools and the programs in the county.”
According to Rhodes, the Mentor Parent Program is in the early stages of planning a bullying walkathon during the anti-bullying awareness month, which is recognized nationally in October.
During her career with the Mentor Parent Program, Rhodes has witnessed the difficulty of addressing bullying problems in the program’s rural 13-county region.
“There is zero-tolerance for bullying in schools, which I agree with,” Rhodes said. “But I think districts need to look at each individual situation differently, and not necessarily as a whole.”
Rhodes hopes the walkathon serves as a prevention against bullying.
She and her staff are also going to receive training in bullying prevention so that they will be able to go into school districts for programming opportunities.
In addition to the upcoming walkathon, the Mentor Parent Program will be participating in the Autism Awareness Fair from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 28, at the DuBois Mall.
Currently, the Mentor Parent Program serves about 3,000 families, Rhodes said.
And although the program is federally-funded, the program is always looking for extra support.
The program is now in it’s second year of a five-year grant.
“We’re existing OK with federal money, but I want to keep this program going, if we don’t get funded one day,” Rhodes said. “And it might not be to the degree I’m now doing it, but I’ll try to hardest to keep it going with whatever means I can.”
For more information about the Mentor Parent Program, visit www.mentorparent.org .