YAB member Holly Dethlefs spends time with her “little friend” at a mentoring event.

YAB member Holly Dethlefs spends time with her “little friend” at a mentoring event.

Since January is mentoring month, you may have recently heard about some of the benefits of mentoring, such as encouraging positive choices, promoting high self-esteem, supporting academic achievement, and learning the skills that build healthy relationships.

Thanks to the local Friends mentoring program, students in Kearney and Ravenna schools are learning about these benefits firsthand, both as mentors and mentees. During the first half of this school year, Friends matched 14 adults, 81 University of Nebraska Kearney students, and 17 high school students with mentees.

Buffalo County Youth Advisory Board members Holly Dethlefs and Jaden Lewandowski are youth mentors in Ravenna. Holly meets with her “little friend” once every week to play a game, do an art activity, and help her with school assignments. Jaden has mentored his “little friend” since 7th grade. Through these long-term relationships, the younger students get one-on-one help in making decisions that contribute to their academic and social success at school.

Both “big” and “little” friends benefit from their connection. Because mentoring a younger student is a long-term commitment, youth mentors learn valuable life skills in responsibility. They experience a sense of accomplishment in helping another student. Mentors improve their own social skills by interacting with their “little friends,” and by helping guide a young student to make good choices, mentors are reminded of the importance of making good choices in their own lives, too.

In partnership with Buffalo County Community Partners, Friends director April Roggasch hopes to expand the program to work with additional schools in Buffalo County. “Students who become mentors gain a new level of confidence because they are helping others,” she said. “This confidence helps them become leaders amongst their peers. Being a mentor in high school also opens the door for additional scholarship opportunities when applying to colleges.”

For information about starting a youth mentoring program in your school, contact the Friends program at 308-236-2036.

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