A teen mentoring program in Ponoka is giving youths a chance to give back to the younger kids.
In recent years Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Ponoka has implemented a teen mentoring program where Grade 10 to 12 students can mentor younger students within the school division. This year there are nine PSC graduates who took part in the program, which has brought more rewards than expected.
Those graduates took some time to discuss the memories that come with the program. Cassandra Molton, Brynne Louis and Shannon Bendera have been big sisters since Grade 10 and each walked away proud of their time as big sisters.
For Molton, the idea came from a leadership class she was taking.
“I like to volunteer and I like children,” she said simply.
She has worked with two different little sisters and their different personalities were fun to learn from.
For Louis, seeing her little sister grow over the three years was a rewarding experience. “She’s a lot more hyper than I am personally…but we were able to find some balance.”
A change that was new this year was for Bendera whose little sister started out at Ponoka Elementary School but is now in Grade 7 at PSC. At first, her little sister was quite shy but has since grown and become quite outgoing.
“I really saw her transition into an adult…it was kind of cool to see,” explained Bendera.
Seeing growth and change was a recurring theme for those mentors who have been in the program for some years.
For the last two years Lauren Bussiere, Stefanie Hatala, Sawyer Liddle, Hailey Rausch and Dylan David Hart have grown with their charges.
While Bussiere saw educational benefits to being a mentor — there is the potential to earn school credits — the experience changed her focus to wanting to become a teacher. “It turned into a lot more than that (school credits) once it started.”
Being the youngest in the family may have been one motivation for Hatala who has always wanted a younger sister. That happened with her being a mentor. In the last two years they have created a strong bond of friendship, says Hatala.
For those interested in the program, Liddle recommends it. “Obviously go for it but it needs to be something you fully commit to,” said Liddle, adding that the learning was a two-way street between her and her little sister.
Hart is the only male youth in the BBBS teen mentor program. For him, it’s all about creating a positive experience. “Sometimes they (little brothers) don’t have a positive role model.”
He too recommends taking in the program, especially for male youths.
And for Jaimie Smith, this was her first year as a teen mentor. It was about finding a way to give back to the community in her last year in high school. “This year I wanted to make a difference in someone’s life.”
It’s been such a good experience for her that she’s sad to leave.
The youths can continue the program, however, as pen pals. Morgen Chernick, BBBS program director, said the pen pal program is another way kids can stay in touch.
For those interested in the program call Ponoka BBBS at 403-783-3112.