Circle of Friends is a mentoring program that was founded in Sisters, Oregon in 2011, by Duncan Campbell. The program is modeled after Portland’s successful “Friends of the Children” program, which was founded by Duncan Campbell in 1993. “Friends of the Children” model now has eight programs across the nation, in cities both large and small, and is continuing to open new chapters.
Duncan himself had a very challenging childhood and made a promise that one day, if he had the resources to do so, he would help other children triumph over similar adversities. He collected the best practices from around the country and wove those into the bedrock of the Friends of the Children program. Starting early with the most vulnerable, challenged children and staying with them for the long haul… This commitment is the foundation of Circle of Friends.
The mentorship model is based on extensive research conducted in 1992 by The Institute for Children on resilient youth and factors that influenced their success. The Institute sought to understand why some children encountering negative situations develop lives of poverty, violence and criminal behavior, while others overcome these obstacles and become strong contributing members of society. The research revealed that the single most important factor that fosters resiliency in at-risk children is a caring and supportive relationship with an adult. Intervention and support, the research found, must begin early, continue as the child matures, and consistently address the needs of the whole person. These findings provided the basis for the model being utilized by Circle of Friends.
The children who participate in Circle of Friends reside in the Sisters School District, a K-12 district with approximately 1200 students. Geographically, the district encompasses the town of Sisters and outlying rural area extending approximately 10 miles in all directions. In the spring of 2016, Circle of Friends also began serving children attending the Black Butte School, an elementary school in neighboring Camp Sherman that feeds into the Sisters School District.
Our program started in response to a community need to address the severe skill gaps of 5–10 children who are annually entering the Sisters school system without the academic, behavioral or social skills essential to succeeding in their life’s journey.
Circle of Friends mentors serve on a volunteer basis. The average tenure of a mentor is 2-3 years, and we have several who are in their fourth year of mentoring. In periods of transition between mentors, Circle of Friends provides continuous support to ease transition to a new mentor and reduce impact on the child. The Sisters community strongly supports the volunteer mentor model, as it reflects the strong commitment to children expressed by members of our community.
Mentors are carefully chosen, trained and provided ongoing support to provide the support and consistency required to impact child’s life. Thorough background and criminal checks occur and every attempt made to create the best possible match for each child. Mentors are excellent role models of successful citizenship, setting an example and modeling traits such as leadership and personal responsibility. Goals are set for each individual child, based on specific needs and home environment. Over time, children become more responsible for their own development and success.
Our Goals for the Children
Short term goals/outcomes for children are for:
- Increased School Success
- Enriched Social and Emotional Development
- Improved Health
- Self-Guided Decision Making
- Plans and Skills for the Future
Longer term outcomes include:
- Increased rate of high school graduation.
- Decrease in early parenting.
- Decrease in juvenile system involvement.