Tara Sprickerhoff photo                                Mala James (right), the Big Brothers Big Sisters in-school mentoring co-ordinator and Dylan DeRose are encouraging anyone who wants to give mentoring a go to sign up for the in-school mentoring program. Mentors are in short supply this year, and James says the mentee wait list is getting longer.

Tara Sprickerhoff photo Mala James (right), the Big Brothers Big Sisters in-school mentoring co-ordinator and Dylan DeRose are encouraging anyone who wants to give mentoring a go to sign up for the in-school mentoring program. Mentors are in short supply this year, and James says the mentee wait list is getting longer.

Big Brothers Big Sisters looking for more in-school mentors

“I think you can learn a lot from each other” says high school mentor

Once per week Dylan DeRose makes his way down the hill from the Williams Lake campus of Lake City Secondary School to meet his mentee, an elementary student at Marie Sharpe Elementary School.

The two do whatever the mentee feels like; they play sports in the gym, play board games, or, as DeRose would say, they just “hang out.”

The two are members of the Big Brothers Big Sisters in-school mentoring program, where high school students and community members are paired with Kindergarten to Grade 6 students for an hour a week.

“For mentees, it gives them some one on one time with a positive role model, and it’s very beneficial in many different ways,” says Big Brothers in-school mentoring co-ordinator Mala James.

“You start to see improvements in behaviour and it’s just something positive in their life that they can look forward to.”

Related: International nursing students volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters

Unfortunately, she says, the program has only 42 mentors this year, down from more than 60 last year.

“We’re low on mentors and the mentee wait lists are getting longer and longer,” she says, adding she hopes more people will sign up to become mentors.

According to DeRose, the program is not only beneficial to the younger students, mentors also benefit from it as well.

“I think you can learn a lot from each other and it’s just a lot of fun to be around someone who is energetic and playful,” says the Grade 12 student. “You learn a lot of new things from people who are younger than you, especially how to have fun.”

DeRose has been mentoring since he was in Grade 9, when he signed up through the school.

He’s worked with three mentees since.

“I found it was really easy to work with younger children because they are always willing to do something. It’s not ‘I don’t want to do this,’ it’s ‘okay, yeah, I’ll give it a go.’”

Calvin Dubray, the principal at Marie Sharpe, is full of praise for the program.

“Kids are very excited when they are matched and they are always asking when their mentor is coming,” he says.

Teachers, councillors and principals identify students from their schools that they think would benefit from a mentor.

“Some of our students are the oldest sibling and they are looking after the rest of their crew so they don’t have that older person they can go to and spend time with.”

Related: Pirates on deck for Bowl for Kids Sake 2017

He says students that are part of the program often have improved confidence, attendance goes up at the school, while behavioural issues will go down.

“It also helps them with understanding how to build and foster relationships with other people,” he says.

For DeRose, working with his mentees has taught him not to grow up too fast, he says.

While mentors do go through a training program to work with the younger students, DeRose says you don’t need any particular skill to help out.

“You just need a good attitude, and be always wanting to do something, always wanting to try something new with them,” he says. “You just need an open mind.”

There is an interview process before people can become mentors, and anyone who wants to become an in-school mentor is encouraged to give James a call at the Big Brothers Big Sisters office at 250-398-8391 or by emailing her at mala.james@bigbrothersbigsisters.ca.

Dubray encourages anyone to give mentoring a try.

“Their impact on our youth and younger students is tremendous. It does make a huge difference in the life of a child.”

As for DeRose, the difference his mentee also makes in his life is noticeable on a daily basis:

“The child you are going down to see, it makes your mood — if you are having an okay day — it makes it go straight up to an excellent day usually.”


@Tspricker
tara.sprickerhoff@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.