Sylvan Lake mentorship program helps students of all ages

Organizers call pilot program a success

Expecting maybe 10 or 15 kids to sign up for a new mentorship program, organizers were happy to help 50 Sylvan Lake kids.

Twenty-five elementary and middle school kids were paired with high school kids for a year long mentorship program.

Kristy Friesen, Family and Community Support Services — Town of Sylvan Lake mentoring coordinator, started by recruiting Grade 11 and 12 students from the Sylvan Lake high schools to volunteer one hour of their week. They then went to the elementary and middles schools and asked which students could use a mentor.

“Our goals was to have between five and 10 mentors and we got 25,” she said. “We were able to serve 50 kids in the community this year. We were really happy with that.”

This was the first year of the program, which Friesen called a pilot project.

Once a week, she brought the high school kids over to mentee’s schools for the weekly hour the pair would share together.

“We’ve done a lot of life skills building,” Friesen said. “Things like cooking, talking about healthy relationships, rope tying, anger management skills and coping skills. It’s been positive for everyone involved.”

On Wednesday, they had a wrap-up party together as a group at the lake.

As much as the mentees have learned throughout the year, Friesen said the mentors have also learned independence and communication skills.

“The amount of growth I’ve seen in the high school kids has been tremendous,” said Friesen. “When we were thinking about the program, it was obvious it was going to benefit the mentees, but how much it also benefited the mentors was really nice to see too.

“They’re accountable, they let me know in advance if they’re going to miss a session and they make it up afterwards. They became attached to the program and to the mentees and make up the time they missed.”

Friesen is ready to go back into the high schools next year to recruit mentors for the program’s second year, if it continues.

“Because of the success we’ve had this year we definitely hope we can keep it going for the next few years,” said Friesen.

Krista Carlson, FCSS youth services supervisor, echoed Friesen’s observations of the personal growth of both the mentors and mentees.

“It was successful, all of the schools have given us positive feedback about what they’re seeing in their students,” said Carlson. “Even outside of mentoring time.”

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