Photo by Myra Nicks/Sylvan Lake News

Mentoring program celebrates successful year

FCSS Mentoring Program took the kids bowling Dec. 13

Mentors and mentees from “Ment to Matter,” the FCSS Mentoring Program, went bowling together at Railside Bowling Alley Dec. 13 in an event the program put together to show appreciation for what the mentors do throughout the year.

“[The mentors] basically help coach [mentees] with communication skills and life skills,” said Kristy Friesen, the FCSS mentoring program coordinator. She added the mentors are also trained to help with relationship building and self esteem in the kids they’re matched with.

The program recruits and trains students from the high school to mentor elementary and middle school students from Chinooks Edge School Division and the community.

“Feedback we’ve had from the schools has been very positive. They’ve all noticed significant social, emotional changes in the kids,” Friesen said.

“The growth and self esteem that has been built in the mentees especially has been really significant,”she said, adding that she hopes to see the program grow as well in the upcoming years.

Mentors meet with their mentee once a week for one hour in the mentee’s school. Friesen said since research shows mentoring relationships are positive for young people, FCSS wanted to provide not only informal mentoring approaches such as the programs at Flipside Youth Centre but also the more structured approach the mentoring program provides.

“We wanted to create a more formal program that really focused on the building of relationships,” said Kristy Carlson, FCSS youth services supervisor

The mentors receive training in effective communication, empowerment, self esteem building and more. The students are also trained to look for signs of social and emotional challenges the kids may be experiencing. Friesen says the training helps mentors be more aware of some of the barriers their mentees could be facing in school or at home.

“We go through a lot of different scenarios and ways to use the proper language to get kids to open up and talk a bit more about their situations,” Friesen said.

Friesen gave an example of how the program has specifically helped a student this year who was not engaging with his teachers, not coming to school and was at high risk for depression and peer isolation. Since he was paired up with a mentor, he has starting attending school, participating in class and is no longer on a watch list for behavioural challenges at school. Friesen received feedback from the vice principal of the school the student is from saying that the student looks forward to the day he can spend time with his mentor and doesn’t want to jeopardize that opportunity.

Friesen said the program is just as helpful to the mentors as the mentees. One of the mentors faced some challenges in connecting with his mentee and rather than being asked to be matched with someone new, he chose to spend more time with the kid and discovered this led to his mentee opening up more.

“I’ve had mentors come to me and just say how much their relationships have impacted them,” she said, adding that even though the program tends to focus on the mentees, research shows the mentoring relationship helps improve connection to others in a variety of capacities just as it does with the mentees.

This year approximately 30 mentors were matched with 30 mentees.

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