Meet a Mentoring Match: Charlie & Oliver

March 5, 2021

Charlie Toomajian wants to make a difference in the lives of Sioux Falls kids. He has volunteered for committees and boards, and at one of those meetings, was introduced to LSS Mentoring. He applied and was matched with Oliver, an energetic first grader at Garfield Elementary. The two got along famously their first year and into their second year. Then in March 2020, school stopped and like all matches, they were not able to continue to see each other.

Garfield is one of three schools that have been able to do virtual mentoring. This February, Charlie and Oliver were able to reconnect, and what a sweet reunion it was! Oliver, still energetic as a third grader, was delighted to finally see his mentor.

“It’s fun and I get to talk to someone,” said Oliver.

“I enjoy talking and about things with Oliver and catching up,” said Charlie. “I also like playing board games.” The two have tried lots of different games, some new and some old favorites. Oliver quickly pointed out, “Charlie likes to lose to me at games!” Charlie says that Oliver likes to keep track and has only lost four times!

Oliver says that he has learned a few things from Charlie, like about medieval culture. Charlie grew up in New York and acknowledges that school is very different now than when he was in the third grade. He thinks mentoring is very important though. “I hope this is good for Oliver and I know it is good for me,” said Charlie. “It helps for me to remember what it’s like to be young.”

Oliver said they share some interests, “we both like games and we both don’t like Covid.” Oliver did say something he will remember about mentoring is being able to meet online. Like many kids, he is quite skilled on his chrome book and clicks in and out of screens. He has taught Charlie a few things too! Charlie said he also has learned “to be careful about what I say because he picks up on everything!” Oliver is also very open and talkative. Charlie embraces that quality and appreciates that he does not have a filter. “Too many adults are too careful about what they say,” said Charlie. “Kids are not, and I think that is important.”

There is never a dull moment in their weekly meetings and their now weekly virtual meetings are no different. Most of all, they enjoy being together. When Oliver was asked how he would describe Charlie, he said, “a friend.” 

If you would like to become a mentor, please apply today.

Post by Michelle Madsen

Workin’ Nine to Five…

March 4, 2021

If you sang that to yourself, then you’ve been around awhile, at least 50 years or so.  Those words are the chorus of a song from a movie that came out in 1980 about working women and how they were treated in their workplaces.  And in many cases, it wasn’t good. Read the rest of this entry »

3 Things in Mentoring – February 2021

February 26, 2021

Hello! We are going to start a new monthly feature on the blog — 3 Things. Each month we will share three highlights or items of interest. It will be a quick way to stay up-to-date with what is going on at LSS Mentoring Services.

Virtual mentoring is up and running at three Sioux Falls elementary schools as well as some Harrisburg, Brandon Valley and Canton schools! While it is definitely not the same, it is a good option for now. This week we witnessed a good eye spy game, mentors and students reading together, general life conversations and introductions between students and all kinds of pets — cats, dogs, rabbits, fish and frogs were all included this week!

Sioux Falls Thrive KidLink took place on Tuesday night at Sermon on the Mound Mennonite Church and we were happy to be part of it. This is an initiative to benefit families in the Laura B. Anderson/Riverside neighborhood. LSS brought a craft that kids could make there or take home and supplies to play BINGO. There were several exciting games! We also were able to distribute clothes that were donated from The Children’s Place. We will write more about that later, but lots of kids got some awesome new clothes.

We started the process to get 8th graders transitioned to USucceed in February. This involves connecting with 8th grade mentors and students and gauging their interest in meeting again next year. We visited with students and they overwhelmingly want to continue! When asked if they missed their mentor, they all said YES and when asked way, answers were missing someone to talk to, hanging out with someone they consider a friend and a few missed getting a break once a week from the school cafeteria. There are 107 8th graders currently in our program, and hopefully a good share of those will transition to USucceed in the coming months.

¡Bienvenida Olivia!

February 25, 2021

Olívia Lima se unió recientemente a nuestro equipo de asesores financieros.  Hija de padre cubano y madre norte-americana, Olívia nació en Inglaterra, se crió en New Hampshire y desde entonces ha vivido en España Olivia y Brasil además de varios estados norte-americanos.  Según ella, ningún lugar ha sido tan frío cuanto la Dakota del Sur ; ) pero dice que después de 12 años está adaptándose—y que la bondad de las personas aquí compensa el frío. Olívia vive con su parcero y dos hijos crecidos en Sioux Falls, donde le encanta andar en bicicleta en la ciclovia, leer y divertirse con Excel ; )

Profesora con veinte años de experiencia, actualmente en el departamento de psicología de la Augustana University, Olívia se emociona con esta nueva oportunidad de ofrecer clases financieras y consultoría para LSS (¡en inglés y también español!).  “La estabilidad financiera es importantísima, tanto para realizar nuestros sueños como para llegar a sentir tranquilidad—¡pero la mayoría de la personas nunca tuvo la oportunidad de aprender a administrar el dinero!  El Centro de Recursos Financieros es un tesoro pues puede ayudarle a tomar el control de sus finanzas.”

¿Necesita ayuda para hacer realidad sus sueños? Los consejeros del Centro de Recursos Financieros pueden ayudar. Puede programar una cita llamándonos al 1-888-258-2227 o visitando nuestro sitio web en

Welcome Olivia!

February 25, 2021

Olivia Lima is the newest financial counselor /educator to join the Center for Financial Resources. The daughter of a Cuban father and American mother, she was born in England and grew up in New England.  Over the years she’s also lived in Spain, Brazil, and a number of US states.  According to Olivia nowhere has been quite as cold aOlivias South Dakota ; ) but she says she’s getting used to the winters after 12 years, plus the warm kindness of the people here makes up for it.  Olivia, her partner, and two grown children live in Sioux Falls.  Her favorite hobbies are hiking, riding on the bike trail, reading, and spreadsheets.

Olivia has been teaching for over 20 years, currently as a psychology professor at Augustana University.  She is excited at the opportunity to teach financial classes and individual sessions through LSS, in both English and Spanish.  “Financial security is so important for reaching our goals and achieving peace of mind, but most of us were never taught how to manage money!  Even if you feel overwhelmed, worried, or ashamed, the Center for Financial Resources can help you get back on your feet, take control, and start moving toward your dreams.”

Need some help making your dreams happen?  The counselors at the LSS Center for Financial Resources are here to help you make your road map.  You can schedule an appointment by calling us at 1-888-258-2227 or by visiting our website at

New Americans are Still Learning

February 23, 2021

We are closing in on one year (ONE YEAR!) of teaching during a global pandemic. It seems both way too long and way too short. I distinctly remember those early days of shifting over to online teaching, of telling students we won’t be having classes in person for who knows how long, of the unknowingness of it all.

Nearly a year later, the teachers and students at the Center for New Americans have fallen into a routine, or something that resembles a routine. In a way, I feel closer to my students now. Every day, I send out a Zoom invite, and, in response, they invite me into their homes; I see their kids in the background, I see family pictures on their walls. Over Zoom, they have shown me new puppies, a freshly painted wall, a home filled with Christmas decorations, a teenage son sweeping the kitchen floor. I have watched one proud father’s newborn twins grow into the cutest, bounciest, almost-sitting-up-on-their-own babies.

I have taught in various rooms in my home as well, so my students have been in my dining room, my fireplace room, and my upstairs office with ukuleles on the wall. I may have taken down a ukulele and played a little at their request. We laugh a lot during class, and the students are genuinely connected to their classmates. If we don’t see someone for a while, the first time he or she pops back into class, we greet them with, “We missed you!”

I am extraordinarily grateful for our students’ resilience and their willingness to tackle this new world of distance learning. They have overcome huge technology and language barriers and have remained so committed to their English education. It has not been easy, and it’s not been without a few hiccups, but together, we are making it work.

While the way we deliver our classes has changed, the core of what the Center for New Americans is has not. We are still welcoming new students into our school, we are still celebrating oaths of citizenship, we are still being called down into the parking lot by students to be handed a bag of treats or a sack of homemade masks.

We are still teaching, and our students are still learning.

Written By:
Lindy Obach ESL Instructor
LSS Center for New Americans
P: 605-731-2000
300 E. 6th St., Sioux Falls, SD 57105

Strengthening Individuals, Families & Communities

How to Enroll Your Child in LSS Mentoring

February 19, 2021

LSS Mentoring Services matches volunteer mentors with children in the Sioux Falls area. The goal is to empower young people to succeed by establishing trusting relationships with adult volunteers.

When a child has an LSS mentor, they have an additional caring adult in their life who is trained to provide support, expand possibilities and foster hope. Mentors have a significant impact on youth by providing guidance and developing consistent, long-term friendships. LSS offers three programs to meet the needs for a variety of kids. We want all kids to know they have a place at LSS and we are committed to helping them find a mentor.

LSS accepts referrals from school staff, parents, service providers and students can even refer themselves! A parent/guardian must give final approval for a child to be part of an LSS mentoring program. Matches are made based on student need and the potential for match success. Review the options below and see if there is one that works for a child in your life.

Climb – mentoring in the community, kids ages 7-14
LSS Climb enrollment must be completed by a parent/guardian. Parents work with mentors to schedule meetings and communicate with program staff about their child. Upon receiving an application, an LSS Climb case manager will set up a parent and child interview to complete the enrollment process. When enrolled and eventually matched, mentors work with the parent to schedule outings. Matches can determine their own adventures based on interests! We ask that matches spend about four hours per month together – how they schedule that time is up to each match.

USucceed – mentoring in the community or school, grades 9-12
Ideally, students enroll in USucceed during their freshman year with the intent to meet with a mentor through their high school graduation. Matches are made and supervised by both LSS and the students’ school. While freshman are the ideal candidates, a student can enroll in USucceed at any point in their high school years. When a mentor has been found, the match can meet during the school day or during evening and weekend times. Matches spend about four hours per month together.

Everyday Heroes – mentoring in school, grades PreK-12
LSS is in partnership with all public schools in Lincoln and Minnehaha counties as well as Flandreau Public School to provide mentors to meet with kids at their school. Each partner school has a coordinator on their staff. To enroll a child in Everyday Heroes, contact the school the child attends. Matches are made at the discretion of the mentor coordinator at that school. When matched, students meet with their mentor during lunch, recess or directed studies once per week.

All LSS mentors are thoroughly background screened and trained before being matched with a child. We are available to answer questions and help mentors and students get the best out of this experience. To start the enrollment process, please contact LSS today by emailing or calling us at 605-444-7803.

Post by Michelle Madsen
Program Director, LSS Mentoring

Time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin’

February 18, 2021

… into the future.  If you don’t recognize that tidbit, do yourself a favor and get on the Google. Read the rest of this entry »

C’mon, Get Happy!

February 11, 2021

Trivia time!  Who knows what family featured in a 1970’s sitcom featuring a family in a multicolored bus who sang together had this phrase in their theme song?  The 70’s?  Really?  How is that relevant? Read the rest of this entry »

National Mentoring Month 2021

February 5, 2021

January marked National Mentoring Month, and despite the circumstances this year, we were able to do a few things to honor the occasion, including:

  • Implementing virtual mentoring at select schools
  • Continue to support and participate in the great work of the Sioux 52 initiative
  • Writing to employers in the Sioux Falls area to encourage them to lift up mentoring in their business
  • Collaborating with other mentoring organizations to share information and learn best practices

Most of all, we acknowledged volunteers commitment to mentoring. While mentoring in 2020 did not look the same, LSS mentors were able to show up for kids by writing letters, meeting virtually or with caution, meeting in person with their student outside of school.
Mentoring is a critical for young people, with mentoring helping them make decisions and connections that lead to opportunity. While there is so much divisiveness today, research shows the majority of Americans agree that mentoring relationships are powerful tools for connection and are needed. Research also shows that mentoring is good for business. The Power of Relationships Report states when employers support youth mentoring, 73% of employees report strong career satisfaction.
While engaging with over 1,200 volunteers in 2020 is worth celebrating, the reality of kids waiting for a mentor is where our focus is set in 2021. Please join us in this work by considering becoming a mentor or communicating the need for more volunteers. If you would like to learn more about mentoring, let us know!

We want to amplify the needs that will be so great in the coming months. LSS Everyday Heroes mentors will hopefully resume weekly in-person meetings at over 80 area schools in the fall. In speaking with school counselors, we know the need will be great. High school students who wish to participate in our USucceed program will continue to hope for a mentor before they reach the end of their high school years. And the growing waiting list (made almost entirely up of young boys) in LSS Climb, our community mentoring program, are ready for a trusting adult to help them enjoy and experience the many things a post-pandemic Sioux Falls will have to offer.
Mentoring makes a difference. If you have questions or would like more information, please contact us at or 444-7803.

Post by Michelle Madsen,
Director, LSS Mentoring Services

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