FUTURE LEADERS - The Town of Sylvan Lake Youth Services team are launching a mentorship program. This file photo shows a number of youth actively involved in the youth centre. (L-R) Taylor Rae Jimmo

Gap in social programming leads to mentoring pilot program

Three Sylvan Lake schools partner to build youth relationships

A new youth mentorship pilot program kicked off in Sylvan Lake this month.

Following the release of the Town of Sylvan Lake’s Social Master Plan in late, a gap was identified in mentorship programs available to youth. Sylvan Lake Family & Community Support Services (FCSS) rallied to fill the hole in social programming.

The new school based mentoring pilot program was launched this week and will see 16 mentors from H.J. Cody High School paired with eight students from Ecole Fox Run School and eight students at C.P. Blakely School. FCSS worked closely with the high school’s leadership class to find suitable mentor candidates with each applicant undergoing a secure screening process including a criminal record check.

Successful applicants then took part in a detailing orientation and training workshop where they learned what it meant to be a good mentor. Both Fox Run and C.P. Blakely administration were asked for mentee suggestions. Together, FCSS staff and school administration worked closely to pair each H.J. Cody mentor with a younger mentee. Mentors and mentees were matched according to interests, hobbies and extra curricular activities such as athletics or musical abilities.

According to the Alberta Mentoring Partnership (AMP), mentoring is the presence of a caring individual who provides a young person with support, advice, friendship, reinforcement and constructive role-modelling over time. Mentoring is about building relationships.

AMP studies show benefits of mentorship programs include the development of confidence and self-esteem building skills needed to be successful later in life; improved social skills and behaviour; increased high school completion rates; enhanced academic motivation and achievement; reduced risk of involvement with drugs and an increased sense of belonging in the school community.

Krista Carlson, FCSS Youth Services Supervisor, explained the benefits aren’t only for mentees as the high school mentors also gain valuable skills.

“High school mentors have been shown to have improved self esteem, social responsibility, problem solving strategies and communication skills,” said Carlson, adding high school mentors also show an increased involvement within the community and are often able to recognize the impact they can have on others.

A study by The Boston Consulting Group for Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada looked at the return on investment for mentoring. They compared the life outcomes of 500 formerly mentored to 1000 non-mentored adults. Results show it costs an average of $5,059 to mentor a child. Mentored adults earned $315,000 more over their lifetime. Among the most disadvantaged mentees, return on investment was $23 for every $1 invested. The same studied showed mentored boys are two times less likely than non-mentored boys to develop negative conducts like bullying and fighting ,while girls with a mentor are four times less likely to bully than girls without a mentor.

Carlson stated the mentorship program wouldn’t have been able to get off the ground without Kristy Friesen, FCSS Youth Mentoring Co-ordinator, who was hired on to ensure the program’s success. Friesen has been working closely with school administration and will continue to work with mentors and mentees.

“Right now our program only has the capacity to be in a few schools, but our end goal is to have the program span all Sylvan Lake schools,” said Carlson, adding FCSS is working studiously to obtain a grant for the expansion of the program as funding currently only allows for a part time mentoring co-ordinator. “Our hope is that every child who needs or wants a mentor can have access to that service. We need to build this program and we have hopes the funding will come.”

Editor@sylvanlakenews.com