January will see the start of the In-School Mentoring Program in 100 Mile House, a project of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Williams Lake (BBBSWL), which earlier this year opened a South Cariboo branch office in 100 Mile House.
“It’s the first time we’ve offered the Mentoring Program in the South Cariboo,” says Kira Mitchell, the local mentoring co-ordinator.
“The focus is on healthy relationships, healthy boundaries, and trust, and encourages younger children to speak up when something seems wrong.”
The program will see grade 9-12 students from Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School (PSO) mentor students at 100 Mile House Elementary School.
While students from kindergarten to Grade 7 are eligible to take part, Mitchell says the greatest initial need has been from students in grades 5–7.
“Referrals come from the teachers and the principal based on their knowledge and understanding of the students.”
The PSO mentors are all volunteers, and must go through an application process, get parental consent, and provide three references before they can begin training.
The one-on-one mentoring, which takes place at the elementary school during school hours, consists of a one-hour session each week.
Mitchell has had 10 volunteer mentors from the PSO so far.
“We try to match students based on compatibility, similar interests and personalities. The focus is on the mentees, who can be any child struggling with social skills or self-esteem, or who lacks community or family connections.
“They have a special friend there just for them, someone to talk to.”
The mentors also get a lot out of the program, Mitchell explains.
“It’s an opportunity to build their self-esteem and mentorship skills, and be a positive role model. They also feel a sense of belonging in a new and exciting venture, and become a part of the community.”
Mitchell says she hopes to have 20 mentors by the end of the school year, and is looking for volunteers from the cadets, youth groups, the Wranglers hockey team and Thompson Rivers University.
The program is produced in partnership with the United Way, and Mitchell is meeting with local businesses to promote the annual profit-sharing campaign and to look for donations.
“The program gives the mentees someone who’s there just for them, and models healthy relationships. It’s a great thing for children who are on the brink of success.”