Morgan Schmidt-Petersen, 16, who volunteers at Mentor Me Petaluma, makes cookies with her longtime mentor Deborah Dalton. Press Democrat photo by Beth Schlanker


Without a mother in her life every day, 10-year-old Morgan Schmidt-Petersen took matters into her own hands.
She nominated herself to be a mentee in Mentor Me Petaluma, a Big Brothers/Big Sisters-like pairing coordinated by volunteers through local schools.
Today, six years later, Morgan and her mentor, Deborah Dalton, have formed a strong union, even blending their extended families at times.
“I had counselors at school, but it wasn’t the same,” Morgan said. “I just wanted to have someone to be close to and do the ‘mom thing’ with.”
Morgan’s resourcefulness is a trait that has served her well during her teen years and bodes well for her future, Dalton said.
“She’s a go-getter,” she said. “She’s very mature and she also has this innate sense of motivation and self-discipline. She has a lot of ambition.”
Born in Novato, Morgan has lived in Petaluma with her dad, Hardy, since she was 3. She has a brother, Max, 17, and a half-brother, Jordan, 23, who is in the Marines. Morgan’s mother lives in the Bay Area but hasn’t been active in her life.
With Mentor Me, Morgan was paired with Dalton, who also grew up in her father’s custody. She was new to Petaluma and looking to volunteer to help guide a young girl.
“Our stars were aligned,” Morgan said.
Dalton has supported Morgan through the difficult pre-teen, tween and now teen-age years, offering advice, encouragement or moral support whenever needed — or just a friendly ear to vent about life’s troubles.
“She’s always been there for me,” Morgan said. Dalton says she’s Morgan’s “support staff.”
Morgan, who just got her driver’s permit, is an incoming junior at Petaluma High School. She has been on the school swim team, the private Westside Aquaducks team and a member of Sea Scouts, a marine scouting program. She has a 3.89 grade-point average.
She has competed in the Skills USA competition in computer drafting for two years, finishing seventh in the state last year with her architectural plan for a house.
Morgan has been doing her own laundry since she was about 11 and dabbled in modeling. Dalton helped her but made Morgan do the hard work of preparing her portfolio and contacting potential agents.
“My brother calls me The Morganizer,” Morgan said.
“Morgan is enthusiastic, super organized and responsible,” Dalton added. “But she’s also sensitive and thoughtful.”
After having been a mentee for six years, Morgan is passing on some of that wisdom. She’s nearly a big sister to Dalton’s children, Jack, 9, and Mia, 12.
“It’s almost like Morgan is mentoring her now,” Dalton said of her daughter.
Morgan also is volunteering at Mentor Me, helping with computer work and organizing the membership databases. There are 260 active mentorships with 75 children on the waiting list from 13 school sites.
She’s hoping to go to Cal Poly and study architecture or psychology.
“There are so many kids that if nobody is looking will get into trouble,” Dalton said. “But Morgan just has this great internal compass.”

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or

Morgan Schmidt-Petersen
Age: 16
Birthplace: Novato
Lives with: Dad Hardy and brother Max
Rockin’ the iPod: Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jack Johnson, Maroon 5, MGMT, Atmosphere
Favorite hobby: Art
Dream job: Forensic psychologist
Favorite TV show: “How I Met Your Mother”
Favorite food: Chinese
Quote: “Well there you have it.” or 707-778-4798

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