The teen mentor program with Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS), already underway for several years, is paying long-term dividends to the younger kids involved.
Of the 24 teen mentors at Ponoka Secondary Campus, who work with kids at Ponoka Elementary School, 12 are graduating this year and the time they have spent in the program has brought lasting memories for them and their charges.
Isabell Stamm says the last three years have been a positive experiences and while there were challenges along the way, it allowed her to meet new people and continue her joy of working with kids. Each student had a reason for working with the younger kids; Nikki Smith said that over the years she has had people help her in life and she feels that this was an opportunity to give back and pay it forward.
“I think it’s nice to do something for someone else,” said Smith.
Becca Wessner loved being a teen mentor so much that she recruited two other teen mentors who are also graduating this year. She had a new charge who went from a shy, quiet boy, “to laughing and running around.”
“Getting to watch the kids grow is definitely something irreplaceable,” explained Wessner.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to help them out of their shell,” added Megan Frank, who has been a teen mentor for the last two years.
But what she really enjoys is being a friend to her young “mentee” as BBBS likes to call a little brother or sister.
For Josian Thompson what made the memories last was being able to make a difference in his young charge. “When you see a change, you know you’ve done something.”
Lindsey Gartner said she never had a younger sibling. This program was the next best thing and while there wasn’t an instant connection with her little sister, hard work and dedication helped create a strong bond between the two. It has gotten to the point where sometimes they don’t even have to say anything but the two can enjoy a game of street hockey without any conversation.
Tawni Kjenner ended up having some anxiety that her little sister, in Grade 3, wouldn’t like her. Kjenner even wore pink clothes to their first meeting in the hopes they would get along. Her fear was unwarranted, it turned out, as both come from big families. It was nice for both of them to have one-on-one time.
This program also confirmed for Allie Wynnychuk her career goal to get into teaching. She found joy in being able to work with her charge and help them learn and grow. “It’s taught me communication skills with kids a lot,” she explained.
The teen mentoring program works with kids from Grade 10 to 12 where they get matched with Ponoka Elementary School kids in Grades 1 to 6, explained program co-ordinator Morgen Chernick. She said BBBS has also added a $500 scholarship to PSC’s scholarship programs.
Other teen mentors graduating this year are Matt Jones, Courtney Chesterman, Samira Rowland and Ferron French-Scott.