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Mentors make a difference at Folsom's Theodore Judah school

By: Laura Newell, Telegraph Staff Writer
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One doctor decided to use his profession to better the lives of some young students. The Kaiser Permanente Medical Offices in Folsom has created a mentoring partnership with a fifth-grade class at Theodore Judah Elementary School in Folsom. Known as KP Health Pals, the program matches 29 fifth-grades with 29 doctors, nurses and other employees at Kaiser Permanente on Iron Point Road. “It’s very exciting,” said Theodore Judah fifth-grade teacher Judith Basler. “It’s important for them to have a mentor. It’s hard for kids to see themselves as an adult at this age.” The idea came from Dr. Anthony Retodo, medical services director in Folsom, who was inspired by a mentoring program his own daughter participated in with a local employer. Retodo, who specializes in internal medicine, said many of the people he works with are energetic, and love to work with children. “I thought it would be a great idea to take that energy and teach it to the future,” Retodo said. “This is a great way to educate and show a student how to be a professional worker. It fills the youth with possibility to do my job one day.” The program takes place through email. Kaiser Permanente mentors and Theodore Judah students send messages to each other, monitored through Basler. Basler will tell the mentors about upcoming lessons she is teaching and mentors can offer homework help for the students. In return, students are encouraged to ask questions of their mentors. Fifth-grader Alexis Garcia, 11, was excited to talk with an older role model. “This is so fun to talk with someone who works there and for them to be our buddy,” Garcia said. “It’s great to have someone who’s older to talk to. I hope to be able to do what she does someday.” Students have already learned about their mentors’ jobs, and what they enjoy doing when not at work. One doctor is an avid fisherman and another is allergic to cats. “I think it is so neat because I can tell when kids talk with their mentors,” said Theodore Judah principal Canen Peterson. “I can hear them talking about it in the hallways.” Fifth-grader Likai Mackendrick, 10, recently talked about fishing with his mentor. “I like talking to him,” Mackendrick said. “I will get to be friends with him and he will help me with my future.” During his first visit to the school on Thursday, Jan. 26, Retodo encouraged students to become detectives, to learn more about medical careers. “They were a lot like you when they were in fifth grade,” he said. “They remember the time when they sat down in a chair like yours, and had to learn all these things you are learning.” The mentors and students will continue to correspond until they meet in person in May, at Kaiser Permanente. “It’s a good experience for all of us,” said fifth-grader Honor Lordemann, 10. “It can help us in the future. To me it will help get us on the right track and make the right decisions.”