Ponoka’s Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) are seeing positive results three years after they opened up opportunities for high school students to be teen mentors for elementary school students.
This year five students, who were big brothers or sisters for students at Ponoka Elementary School (PES), are graduating from Ponoka Secondary Campus (PSC), and they took some time Thursday, May 28 to speak on the benefits of the program.
Katelyn Davis, Cassie Krenzler and Keenan Haines have mentored for the last three years; Melissa Wilson has mentored for two and Grady Wygiera mentored for his last year of high school.
For Krenzler the biggest challenge was ensuring her little sister felt comfortable but the rewards came in the fellowship the two have. “It takes a long time and it is hard work but once you get it, you get,” said Krenzler.
In the last three years, the two have become friends and Krenzler said it has been a rewarding experience.
For Wilson, she too used to be a little sister and she felt this would be a good opportunity to give back. She referred to her big sister saying “I saw how much she helped me come out of my shell.”
Wilson added that being a big sister, she has still learned something about herself by being a mentor. Haines agreed; he said that while he is focussed on sports, his little brother enjoyed the arts more.
Haines and his little brother have also become friends and he said he had also found an appreciation for art, something he wouldn’t normally have tried.
Program director Morgen Chernick said there were 19 students enrolled in the teen mentoring program and her goal is to have 30 by next fall. She said the process of pairing a mentor to a little brother or sister involves interviews as well as record and reference checks.
Conducting interviews helps her find the right match to the right mentor.
Wygiera said the biggest surprise for him was how close he became to his little brother. He said they created a strong bond over the last year.
Davis said she has always enjoyed working with children. “I like to be the one to help them figure things out.”
Chernick said teen mentors can start once they are in Grade 10.