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Program helps youth overcome obstacles

Club XCite’s after-school mentorship program utilizes a big brother/big sister philosophy to help children who are struggling socially or academically.

Stefan Hochfilzer, 27, and John Foletta, 26, who met at UC Berkeley, started the program five years ago with the goal of creating a well-rounded program that would help youngsters gain academic, athletic and social skills.

Most of the 20-something mentors have backgrounds in fields such as education, psychology and social work. In addition to helping with academics and social skills, mentors often help the young people with whatever their personal interests are, be it surfing, theater or even fly-fishing, they said.

“I think what makes this program successful is because of the novelty of this relationship, this older brother/older sister relationship,” said John Foletta, Club XCite’s vice president. "[The kids] don’t filter out a lot of the recommendations and the instructions they might be getting from a teacher at school or an educator or their parents when it’s coming from this kind of young, hip role-model influence.”

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The children being mentored are typically 7 to 15 years old. Every two weeks a performance-tracking sheet is filled out to monitor the child’s progress and every three months achievement plans are written to assess longer-term goals. In addition to mentoring services, the organization also offers a variety of clubs and weekend programs.

“We have families who have been with us for two or three years now,” said Hochfilzer. “You can see the progression of where this kid used to be and where they had no friends and where they were maybe just unhappy and not doing well in school, and now they really don’t need us anymore. They’ve grown and they’re very socialized, doing well academically, and they have an eye toward the future.

Club XCite, which recently expanded to Orange County, introduced two new programs this year. The scholarship program is designed to help low-income families who could not normally afford the services. The second program brings in a therapist who works in conjunction with mentors.

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