Do you want to volunteer to become a positive influence in a child’s life, but aren’t sure that the Big Brother path is right for you? Did you know you can be a Big in a school setting? Read about Connor, one of our In-School Mentors.
Growing up in small town Cochrane, Alberta, Connor didn’t feel like he had very many opportunities to volunteer in a meaningful way. So when he moved to Edmonton to get his Degree in Neuro Science from the University of Alberta, he kept his eyes open for the right opportunity. One day he saw a flyer on the wall about BGCBigs volunteer opportunities and decided to apply. The application and matching process took about four months and in Fall 2010 he was excited to become an In-School Mentor in Central Edmonton.
“I’ve loved it since day one,” Connor says. “At first, I didn’t really know what to do with the students, but I learned pretty quickly that we could work on their homework and then go do something fun.”
BGCBigs’ In-School Mentoring (ISM) is a program where adult mentors go into schools to spend an hour with a child once a week. One of the unique aspects of ISM is that the time is guided by the 20-20-20 rule. Mentors and students spend 20 minutes getting to know each other or catching up, 20 minutes going over homework or reading, and the last 20 minutes participating in recreational activities.
“We play board games, have access to the gym, and can even get involved with a class if they are doing a cool activity that day,” Connor explains. “We’ve baked together, or gone outside and played soccer or football. And of course I help Zane, my mentee, with his homework. There aren’t really restrictions on the things we do as long as we follow the rules.”
Connor enjoys the more structured school setting for mentoring; BGCBigs has a Community Programs Facilitator onsite to provide support throughout the match. And at this particular school, all of the teachers are incredibly supportive of the mentoring program and some teachers even bring Connor and his mentee extra activities to do to help keep them busy for the full hour.
In his four years as a mentor with BGCBigs, Connor has worked with three mentees, all of whom started out really shy. “You just have to slowly work your way in and let him know it is okay to be yourself.”
After spending the whole year together, Zane has come out of his shell a lot and he is happy to tell people about his match with Connor. “I tell them I got a mentor and he’s pretty cool,” Zane says.
According to Connor, changing a child’s life isn’t as dramatic as it sounds. “You help them make small changes that will lead to bigger changes in the future,” Connor explains. “It’s like a ripple effect.”
It’s not just changing the mentee’s life; mentoring has a positive impact on the mentor too. “To me, it adds to my quality of life,” Connor says. “I feel like I’m giving back to the community in a meaningful way, helping a future generation of citizens. As a mentor, I can give support to these kids where I may not have had the same support growing up. I see the kids I’ve worked with mature and become leaders in their classrooms. It’s a great opportunity to foster that in schools.”
When asked what advice he’d give other men considering volunteering, Connor responds: “You have to take a chance and go for it. The most important thing is that you’re interested in spending time with these kids.”
In-School Mentoring, to Connor, is more than just an academic program: “It’s centered on building a strong relationship and trust and other important values. And each year it’s so rewarding.”