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Petaluman helps teens live up to their fullest potential

Lyn Romstad is the first to confirm that she has a pretty blessed life, but volunteering in her youngest son’s classroom revealed how much more fortunate she and her family were than some of his classmates.

“I realized my son had a very different life than some of his classmates,” said Romstad, acknowledging an urge to do something.

“I started the Mentor Me site at Corona Creek Elementary as my way of working to give back,” Romstad noted.

Within no time, word got out about how helpful it was to have a Mentor Me site on campus and Romstad was asked to create one at Kenilworth Junior High, and then at Casa Grande and Petaluma high schools. Mentor Me is a nonprofit organization in Petaluma dedicated to empowering youth by pairing them with an adult mentor.

Romstad began volunteering at Mentor Me and her efforts over six months garnered her a paid-site coordinator position when Mentor Me obtained a federal grant.

Romstad’s duties include working with about 25 students a week, and she says she enjoys it thoroughly.

She added, “I think that growing up I could have benefitted from having a mentor. I relate a lot to the kids and I understand everyone makes bad decisions, but it does not define you. You have the power to turn it around.”

Romstad is inspired by the people she works with, citing her co-mentors, the office staff and the people at the schools she works with. In her past, Romstad also said her mom inspired her to “pull myself up by my bootstraps,” and sees her time as a student at Ursuline High School as influential.

“They taught us responsibility,” she added.

Describing herself as “upbeat, friendly, Italian, can-be feisty and protective of loved ones,” Romstad was able to turn her story around after enduring upheaval following her parents’ divorce.

When it came time for her to partner, she said, “I found someone as different as possible from my dad, and we are committed to family.”

Family, health and happiness are most important to Romstad, who at the same time looks forward to the next stage in her life.

“My youngest will graduate in May and go to college. I look forward to the renaissance with my husband, although I will miss childrearing a little bit,” she said. For now, Romstad asserts that her job is the best.

“I have such a great job,” she said. My students are the best. I feel like at the end of the day, we have these kids listening to and respecting us because we listen to and respect them.”

Romstad encourages anyone who has an hour a week to spare to consider volunteering to be a mentor with Mentor Me.

“We currently have 90 kids on the waitlist for a mentor,” she said. “You only need to commit to an hour per week and it’s rewarding. Not only do you help your mentee, but your mentee helps you.”

(Contact Lynn Schnitzer at argus@arguscourier.com)

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