Preston Herzog, a Lakeside Elementary School student with an affinity for Batman action figures wasn’t sure just how dirty he wanted to get.

Preston Herzog, a Lakeside Elementary School student with an affinity for Batman action figures wasn’t sure just how dirty he wanted to get.
He’d been protected from the thick cement mix that his two YouthFriends, Debbie McKinstry and Dale Marie Bryan, had him mixing to make a stepping stone for the garden. They’d outfitted him in a lab coat, protecting his orange shirt, and gloves over his hands. But now, they were asking him whether he wanted to leave his handprint in the stone before decorating it, and Bryan asked him if he wanted to lose the gloves.
“Well, I don’t know,” Herzog said. “I think I’ll keep the gloves on.”
The stepping stone was one of many activities the trio has worked on together. There was the time they blew giant bubbles — the ones that Herzog wanted to eventually pop with paper airplanes — and they sent him on a scavenger hunt while McKinstry and Bryan, both of whom have four grown children and both who work for Pitsco, cleaned up trash around the school.
“We’re at the stage where we miss them,” McKinstry said. “It’s been rewarding to see Preston open up to us. We get to do a lot of crazy stuff, and we’re challenged for new ideas, but we always have fun.”
That fun is outlined in a photo album they’ve put together showing all the activities, along with everyone’s smiling faces. Herzog is one of about 40 students through Pittsburg USD 250 who meets with his YouthFriends once per week.
“From what we can tell, the more caring adults that a child can have in their life, it’s a positive,” said Brandy Stanley, Lakeside counselor. “Some kids just need a little extra boost, whether that’s with school, or socially. They can learn how to respond to others. We’re just so grateful for all our volunteers who generously give their time. We couldn’t do this without them.”
Joe Bournonville, USD 250 YouthFriends coordinator, said the mentoring program had a wonderful start this year and was only going to get bigger.
“We’ve really concentrated on the elementary schools this year, and a bit at middle school,” Bournonville said. “We want to work more in the future with the high school, both as volunteers, and then those that want to be involved as students of course could be.”
Expanding the number of volunteers is also a goal — Bournonville said he hoped to have 100 by the end of next year. He said he also wants to grow the scope of the program. He said he would look into things like e-mentoring, where students receive guidance through e-mail correspondence, career coaching where community members would come in and work with small groups of students, and fostering relationships with Pittsburg State University and those in local assisted living facilities.
“That would be a win-win situation for us,” Bournonville said. “The one thing that we’ve found is that the relationship is as beneficial for the mentor as it is for the student.”
To sign up, Bournonville said anyone interested in volunteering could call the USD 250 board office or any school in Pittsburg, or fill out an application on the YouthFriends Web site, There is a screening process and background check involved.
“It’s just a great program,” Bournonville said.
Herzog agreed. After discussing his favorite projects — the stepping stone was his favorite — he talked about what he liked about his YouthFriends.
“I get to do lots of crazy stuff,” Herzog said. “They are pretty crazy. They are sometimes silly, sometimes unexpected. We have a lot of fun.”