The Ponoka Youth Centre has found ways for businesses and youths to connect in meaningful ways. Here Battle River Insurance - The Co-operators staff have found fulfillment and motivation being part of the program. In the picture (l-r) are Sara Dennis, Luke Sperber, Greg Braat and Dana Schultz. Photo by Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

Ponoka’s Big Brothers Big Sisters’ in-school mentoring is working

The Ponoka Youth Centre is finding meaningful ways to connect with businesses and youths

Mentors with Ponoka’s Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) program are finding motivation in their professional lives by being part of the in-school mentoring program.

One such example is Battle River Insurance – The Co-operators staff who made the conscious decision to join Ponoka’s program. It’s a decision that has found more benefits than expected.

Owner Greg Braat has been with the program since mid-September 2017. “I’m a real proponent of my staff doing volunteer work,” said Braat.

It’s a one hour commitment every week for staff, and Braat pays his staff during that time. Most of the office staff were able to commit and Braat is finding some personal growth out of mentoring.

“Any kind of support for kids that are lacking…it’s huge,” said Braat.

There’s a balance, he says, between mentoring and guiding but also being a friend to that little brother or sister.

“We have a blast together and he gets to choose what we do,” said Braat.

With staff taking part in the program there’s an opportunity to bond and discuss all that’s happened, plus see successes within the process.

“It just feels good to give,” said Braat.

As fate would have it, Braat’s little brother has a sibling who is a little brother to Luke Sperber, associate financial advisor at Battle River Insurance.

They’re able to find connections that weren’t originally anticipated.

“For me going in, it was nerve wracking,” said Sperber, who said that one hour of mentoring is a lot more fun than he expected.

“You don’t realize how much of a difference you make,” he added.

Since starting he’s been told by the school that it’s been a night and day change.

For Sara Dennis, associate insurance advisor, it’s been a fun experience. Her little brother is in Grade 6 and she found connecting a lot easier than expected.

“He keeps me really active,” she joked, pointing out that playing soccer, basketball and volleyball gives her a bit of a workout.

Dennis’ little brother also has a sibling brother that Dana Schultz, client support representative, is a big sister to. “I find it rewarding. My little brother is really outgoing and he’s got a very strong personality,” said Schultz.

After a few weeks, he started to open up. “We really formed a friendship,” she added.

For BBBS program co-ordinator, Morgen Chernick, she’s grateful to see involvement from Ponoka’s corporate side of things. Among the other businesses that take part in the program are ATB Financial, Servus Credit Union, Ponoka News, Ponoka FCSS, Ponoka Chrysler and the Ponoka Youth Centre.

BBBS has in-school mentoring at all the elementary schools, as well as Mecca Glen and Crestomere schools.

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