With camp ending today, mentors ready for year ahead
WORTHINGTON -- Area high school and elementary students have been getting to know one another this week through the Nobles County Integration Collaborative's (NCIC) Circle Mentoring program's annual camp. The four-day camp will end today as the high school teens are paired with the elementary students they will mentor throughout the following school year.
The program is open to juniors and seniors and first- through fifth-graders in any of the NCIC member districts.
The Circle Mentoring program has been a part of the NCIC for many years, and it strives to build relationships between high school students and elementary students.
"It's getting high school students to volunteer their time to mentor elementary students from their own district," explained Jessica Velasco, NCIC youth development leader.
Interested high school students go through an application process to be selected as part of the program. The number of elementary students who participate is contingent on the number of mentors selected.
Elementary students who participate in the program are often those who struggle with self-esteem, grades, or attendance and are referred to the program by a teacher or school counselor.
Prior to being paired with a mentee, the high school students go through a two-day training program.
Circle Mentor Camp is in August every year. All of the students, high school and elementary, meet together for four days to get comfortable with one another.
"We put them together, and then we let them work with each other so they can see who they would like to be paired up with," Velasco said.
Mentors are paired with an elementary student on the last day of the camp, and for the remainder of the school year, they are responsible for connecting with their mentee.
"The high school students must contact with their mentee once a week via phone call or by going over to their house," Velasco said. "They also must do an outing once a month. They can do more than that if they would like, but once a month is the requirement."
Throughout the year, activities are scheduled for all of the students in the program so they can connect with one another again.
"I think it's really nice that they can meet other people outside of their school," Velasco added.
This will be Rachel Van Dyke's second year in the program. The Fulda senior said her love of children prompted her to be a Circle Mentor and that she still has a relationship with the student she mentored last year.
"I love how now she can come to me with stuff and we hang out more," Van Dyke said. "When she hangs out with me, she feels really loved and like she can do stuff."
Taylor Kenney, also of Fulda, will participate in the program for the first time this year.
"It's a different experience," she said. "It's a different way to get to know kids, and a different way to build relationships as well."
Both of the girls said they have enjoyed building relationships with each of the elementary school students and watching the younger students become more comfortable with themselves and each other during the four-day camp.
In the future, Velasco hopes to be able to expand the program to include more area school districts.
"I hope we can get more high school students involved," she said. "I believe we have the referrals for the elementary students, we just don't have the high school mentors."