In-School Mentoring — Ken’s Story
Have you been wondering what in-school mentoring is really like? I asked Ken to share his experience with us so that we could have a glimpse into the relationship that has developed with his “little.
Over the past four years I have had the privilege of being “matched” up with Nic through the in-school mentorship program of Big Brothers and Big Sisters. This program, along with other programs that the Youth Volunteer Centre (YVC) offers, aims to empower children and youth to develop confidence and skills for life through knowledge, healthy relationships, and quality experiences.
As Nic’s “Big Brother,” it is my job to help instill in him that he is a kid worth hanging out with. During the school year I meet him at his school once a week to hang out one-on-one for an hour. Depending on a number of factors, including the weather and energy level, our time together each week can look like a lot of different things. We have built models, chased bugs, constructed forts, climbed trees, jammed on guitars and baked cookies — to name a few. While some of our activities are spur of the moment inspirations, others are more planned out, like the day Nic and I decided to build and fly our own kite. We must have run 10 kilometers that day trying to get that stupid kite in the air. In the end it actually flew! It was only for five seconds or so, but it flew! Nic slept well that night I am sure — I know I did. During these weekly meetings we are always on the school property, but there are also times provided by YVC where we can hang out at events and venues away from the school, such as organized Rebels hockey games or bowling outings. These have all been memorable occasions.
Practically, I think that our regular meetings have been good for Nic in that they bring an added element of stability and predictability to his life. He anticipates our hangout times together, and he can always count on me to be there each week. It seems to be a bright spot in his week, regardless of whatever else is going on in his world. Teachers have noted that our time together really does impact his attitude in the classroom and his grades. There have been several times when Nic’s teachers have come to me with “issues” that they see developing in Nic, and I have done my best to help him work through those things. One practical success is a math exam that Nic aced after we spent time studying together. He can be a pretty accomplished young man when he commits himself. That said, in our hour together each week I have always tried to keep the studying and homework to a minimum. Burning off steam via a good wrestling match or game of tag on the playground is probably more beneficial anyway, at least that is what I tell myself. Needless to say, Nic does not object to this philosophy.
Mixed in with the fun and excitement that we have, there are also real moments where I have been given access into some other areas of Nic’s life. The young boy I knew four years ago has developed into a young man who is now beginning to wade through the turbulent waters of adolescence. Our conversation has progressed from Lego to girlfriends and questions are becoming more difficult to answer. I have often prayed for guidance in how to best display Jesus’ love to Nic. I have had to wear two hats: the fatherly figure and the playground buddy, and at times these two hats have been difficult to juggle. It has been good for me to get to know Nic’s mom and one of his brothers over the past few years. Having the support of Nic’s mom is evidence of her deep care for her son. Her encouragement has made hanging out with and investing in her son that much more special to me. I have made a point of bringing my family to the school so that Nic can get a glimpse into my home life as well. He is a mentor himself when around younger kids, and I love watching him interact with my little guys.
My involvement with in-school mentoring has taught me a lot about how small sacrifices can lead to bigger impact. One hour a week is all it takes. And I know for certain that this impact is not due to anything I am worthy of recognition for. I feel that even though I stumble my way through a lot of things, I will continue to keep stumbling along this path that I believe Jesus is calling me to and I pray that Nic and his family will catch at least a glimpse of — and maybe a full-blown encounter with — Jesus.
One hour a week is all it takes…….