Krista Sesvold, a junior  this year at Pitkin High School and one of just 30 students from across the southern United States, was recently named as a leader in the Teen Trendsetters Reading Mentor program which pairs high school students with second and third-graders who struggle with reading for one-on-one weekly sessions.


Come the first day of school, Krista Sesvold, will be recruiting classmates to join her in mentoring elementary students here.
Sesvold, a junior  this year and one of just 30 students from across the southern United States, was recently named as a leader in the Teen Trendsetters Reading Mentor program which pairs high school students with second and third-graders who struggle with reading for one-on-one weekly sessions. 
She's looking  forward to the experience of helping others overcome their struggles, she said.
"Whenever I was in third grade, I wasn't a really good reader," said Sesvold. "Just knowing that I have the opportunity to help other young children become better readers makes me feel I've accomplsihed something."
Ruby Smith, Pitkin High School counsellor, said the program has been in the works since last year and that choosing Sesvold to be the teen leader was easy.
"I had worked with her on several occasions in other clubs," Smith said of Sesvold. "She works well with other people.Other students in the school work well with her."
In addition, Smith said that Sesvold's previous experience with working with children at her church was a plus.
Once a week, Sesvold and the other volunteers will spend an hour with each child that is being mentored. The children, pre-selected by their teachers, will read a series of books provided by Teen Trendsetters.
Most of  the books include science and history, Sesvold said. "So (the children are) not only reading, they're learning as well. We let them read to us, and if they have trouble reading, we help them." 
Sesvold will recruit another 15 high school students to help in the program.  Each mentor will have to meet certain criteria before being matched with a mentee, said Smith.
Good reading skills are a must, as is a personality that is conducive to working with small children. Good grades are also a necessity since the students may have to miss parts of their classes in order to fulfill their duties as a mentor. 
Sesvold, along with her advisor, Ruby Smith, attended a two-day training for the program in Orlando, Fla. in mid-July. There she learned strategies to help her overcome problems that may arise with some of the children, she said.
"They told us how to cope with different problems, how to get (the children)interested and how to help them learn even though they may not want to," she said. 
"Teen Trendsetters ... exists because of the passion and big hearts of thousands of teens in the U.S.," said Liza McFadden, president of Volunteer USA Foundation which manages the program. 
The goal is to bring the joy of reading to all students, improving the basic reading skills of the younger students and nurturing the volunteer spirit among youth leaders.
Sesvold was selected as a leader based on teacher recommendations, personal essays and a passion for volunteerism. 
The elementary students aren't the only ones who benefit from the program. The teen volunteers will themselves come away with a wealth of experience, including earning community service hours which are required on many college and scholarship applications.
Approximately 3,000 high school students attending 150 schools will be volunteering in Trendsetters programs during the 2009-2010 academic year.
 The Teen Trendsetters is supported by private businesses and donors committed to education and youth mentoring. For more information on Teen Trendsetters™ Reading Mentors please visit www.teentrendsetters.org and www.volunteerusafoundation.org.