Emily Parker, left, and Madison Underhill, both 17, are graduating from the Big Brothers Big Sisters teen mentor program at the end of this school year. When they turn 18, they can participate in the community-based mentoring program. Photo by Emily Jaycox

Teen mentoring rewarding for these two grads

Two of Ponoka’s 2019 graduates aren’t only moving on from high school, but are also “graduating” from the school-based teen mentoring program of Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Ponoka.

Emily Parker has been volunteering with the program since she was in Grade 10 and Madison Underhill joined last fall.

Both Parker and Underhill hope to continue on with their mentees in the next school year.

Parker became interested in becoming a teen mentor when she heard about it from friends who were already mentoring.

“After doing it, I absolutely loved it,” she said.

Seeing her mentee every week, and the consistency of that schedule and getting to know her mentee were the things that were most rewarding to her.

They give each other “updates on their lives” and Parker says her mentee “always tells me something funny when I see her.”

For Parker, who has no younger siblings, mentoring was awkward at first, but she says the pair figured out what they enjoy doing together and got a rhythm going. Now they do a lot of crafts and games together.

“She knows I can’t play Twister to save my life so we play a lot of Twister,” said Parker. “I’m getting more flexible by the day.”

In January 2020, Parker will be leaving to live in Europe for a year as an au pair (foreign domestic assistant or nanny), possibly in Italy or Spain.

Underhill used to get help with her school work at the Youth Centre through the Raise the Grade tutoring program, so this year she decided to give back as a teen mentor.

Starting out with her mentee was difficult at first.

“It was kind of a struggle … he was very quiet with me,” said Underhill.

In this case, the two knew each other prior to being matched, as their siblings play hockey together, giving them something to talk about.

Program director Morgen Chernick says the program doesn’t intentionally make matches between mentors and mentees who know each other, but says “it does happen.”

The two play floor hockey a lot together and Underhill also helps her mentee with his school work, and likes to “test his knowledge.”

They do board games together and play pool.

“He always beats me,” says Underhill.

“I think for both of us (mentoring) was a change that helped us understand different aspects of our lives.”

Chernick presented Underhill and Parker with framed photos of them and their mentees, with pictures to give their mentees as well.

Both young ladies agreed that mentoring was a nice break in their days from the stresses of school and exams and it was a learning experience for them both, and one they plan on continuing.

There is no mentoring over the summer months and will start up again in the fall.

When teen mentors graduate, BBBS considers options that will allow the matches to continue past graduation. Options may include in-school mentoring or community-based mentoring for those 18 and older.

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