When Mary Jo Vance attended the annual Women Unite event to learn more about how she could help the Sioux Empire United Way, the message hit home. Her oldest daughter had just left for college and she realized she had more time available to volunteer in the community.
The presentation was about the 2012 United Way initiative, USucceed. USucceed is a mentoring service for high school students, where matches are able to meet off school grounds if they would like and both the mentor and student commit to the relationship until the student graduates high school.
“I heard about the program and knew I wanted to help. I had just been through high school with my oldest daughter and thought I could be a resource for another student,” said Mary Jo. “I also am an alum of West Central, so wanted to give back to the school that I went to.”
Mary Jo was matched with Kendra, an 8th grade student at West Central last year, and the two still meet weekly. They were happy that they could meet throughout the summer to prepare for high school and the new expectations and changes that come with being a freshman.
Mary Jo’s favorite thing about mentoring is that she “gets to hear about how things are going each week. I am excited to know how she is doing and what’s new in her life,” said Mary Jo. Kendra’s favorite thing about having a mentor is, “the fact that she is not in high school and thinks very different than I do,” said Kendra. “Having a mentor is good because I get to talk to an adult who is not my parent or teacher.”
Her and her mentee are both outgoing, so there were no issues with making a strong connection on day one. Mary Jo mentors a student that is a high achiever and very active in extra-curricular activities at school.
“We have talked about a lot of things and she is on the right track to achieve her goals,” said Mary Jo. “There have not been any issues, but I am enjoying building a relationship so she will know that if and when she needs help with something, I will be here to help.”
Mary Jo is thankful that she went to the luncheon in 2011 and decided to become a mentor. “I would encourage others to join and take that step. I enjoy mentoring a lot,” she said.
Most of all though, Mary Jo is looking forward to going through all of the traditions of high school with Kendra. Everything from helping her choose classes to help Kendra find a job and look for scholarship opportunities to seeing prom pictures and more. Kendra is set on getting scholarships and sees Mary Jo as a great resource to help her with that search.
If you are interested in being part of USucceed, we are in need of more mentors to help Sioux Falls area high school students. If you currently mentor a student in 8th grade, please let us know if you would be interested in participating in USucceed next year.