Lutheran Social Services Mentoring
Investing in Our Community

Giving Spotlight: Lutheran Social Services Mentoring

November 3, 2016

PREMIER employees at work in the community

Sometimes, we can have a positive impact on the life of another without ever really knowing. PREMIER employee Sadie had this realization after volunteering as a mentor with Lutheran Social Services (LSS). That’s just one reason we’re humbled and grateful for our hundreds of employees who are willing to lend a helping hand. It does make a difference in our communities.

In our organization, over 75 employees actively mentor youth through LSS. Sadie recently brought her mentoring story to our attention, and we knew it was too good not to share. (Please note that we changed the names of the individuals in this story to honor their desire for privacy.)

“Am I really making a difference?”

“I nearly stopped mentoring at the end of my first year. I was matched with Emma, a very shy kindergartner. We met each week, and at first, I couldn’t get her to talk to me in anything above a whisper. The mentor room gets crowded and I often couldn’t hear her at all. If I needed her to repeat herself more than once, she would usually shrug and make a frustrated, small growl, refusing to speak again.

As the year went on, we did many activities that didn’t require much talking. We drew pictures, did some simple craft projects, built with blocks and Lincoln logs, and I read her books. When I brought in sparkly nail polish, her eyes lit up. That became a go-to activity. I got in the habit of carrying a bottle with me just in case she wanted a touch up.

She was behind and struggling with school and didn’t like being there. I told her how much I liked math and numbers. We started counting the stairs as we went up, and I would ask how many nuggets would be left if she ate two of them. I did anything I could think of to work numbers into the conversation. By the end of the year, she would count the stairs with increasing volume every time we went up. She was almost shouting by the time we reached the top, smiling all the way.

Still, I wasn’t sure being there was doing any good. I figured all kindergartners would improve as the year went on. I doubted it had anything to do with me. I doubted she even knew my name and didn’t feel I was having any impact at all. She was still quiet, and while she now spoke loud enough for me to hear, we didn’t talk much.

Towards the end of the year, her teacher asked if I would mentor Emma again the next year. I told her that I doubted Emma would care either way. I didn’t think she liked mentoring and would rather be at recess sometimes. Her teacher was shocked! She said Emma learned the days of the week and was thrilled whenever Tuesday rolled around so she could see me. Apparently, she not only knew my name, but she would talk about me and all the fun things we did. When she would get back from mentoring, the teacher would have Emma give the whole class a play by play of what we actually did. It was the only way to calm her down enough so she could focus the rest of the day.

It turns out I was making a difference after all. The next year, I watched Emma grow into a silly, giggly 1st grader. If her family had not moved, I would gladly have kept mentoring her. Instead, I was matched with Julie, an outspoken, sometimes rowdy, 4th grader.

Julie had been asking for a mentor since 1st grade, but there had never been enough mentors to go around. She couldn’t be more different than Emma.

After eating, Julie and I usually go to the gym. We play dodge ball, basketball, foursquare, or just hang out. She shows me her dance moves, demos her mild trash-talking skills (ah, dodge ball), and fills me in on what goes on outside of school.

Julie is always so thankful that she has a mentor. She draws pictures for me and even made me a card for Mother’s Day saying I’m like another mom to her. When we met for the first time this school year, she was almost bouncing with excitement. She launched into talking about what she had been doing all summer and how hard it was to be patient that morning knowing she would see me at lunch.

I grew up in a very stable, loving home. My parents had the time and resources to help me succeed in and out of school. It is easy to ignore the fact that not all kids grow up in that same situation. Mentoring gives me the chance to help two fantastic girls get a little more attention and a little more encouragement in their lives. I’m grateful for all I’ve been given in life, and mentoring allows me to give some of that to others through my time and attention.

There are always kids in need of mentors. I encourage anyone to give mentoring a try. One hour a week can make a huge difference to a child.”

 

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