People you should know: 2013 Outstanding Mentor Nominees

On April 17, LSS Mentoring Services will hold our annual recognition breakfast to thank the 1,500 Sioux Falls area residents who volunteer through our program. At the event, we also recognize a few individuals that have gone above and beyond in their service and have been nominated as an Outstanding Mentor for 2013. Congratulations to all 18 nominees this year!

Randy Bury, Axtell Park Middle School
Randy’s mentee said, “Randy does things just out of the goodness of his heart and never asks for anything in return.” Randy and his mentee have been matched for seven years and counting. Next year, they plan to transition to our USucceed program to continue their relationship through the students high school graduation.

Diane Craig, Jefferson Elementary School
Diane is kind, caring and a constant source of hope. Despite health concerns, Diane continues to mentor. She says the best thing about mentoring is seeing the light in her student’s eyes. Her student says, “Diane has a kind heart by listening to me and understanding why I cry … she is like a aunt and mom to me.”

Darwin Gramstad, Cleveland Elemenatry
Darwin is a steadfast person in his mentees life and is incredibly positive and supportive. The story of Darwin and his mentee is one of persistence. It is a big deal that his student, who often does not show emotion, is excited to see Darwin each week. His student says “I know he will always be there for me.” That consistency and commitment is the most influential factor of all.

Betsy Homan, Mark Twain Elementary & Garfield Elementary
It is evident that Betsy has a big heart and truly cares for her two mentees. Betsy uses “teachable moments”. For example, when a student is having a bad day or makes a poor choice, Betsy helps them understand why and also helps her students come up with a different way to handle that situation if it happens again. One of her mentees said, “I think Betsy is a good mentor because I know she cares about me a lot.”

Sharon Hoogestraat, RF Pettigrew Elementary
Sharon is patient and loving and truly listens to what her mentee has to say. Her mentee says, “Sharon is kind, tender-hearted and … I just love everything about her!” Sharon is also an advocate for the program and talks to colleagues about her experience. Above all, she is a terrific role model. Her mentee’s teacher, who often gets to “overhear” Sharon and her mentee talking, says, “I am frequently impressed by the depth of their conversations.”

Jacob Kabrud, Terry Redlin Elementary
College mentors are often difficult to retain because of their changing schedules and other commitments. Jacob is not like that. He is on his fourth year of mentoring, and plans to stay in touch with his mentee after he graduates. Jacob and his mentee banter and talk freely, and Jacob has been able to witness the tremendous amount of physical and mental growth in his student. His mentee says, “Jacob is always there for me.”

Allen Kjesbo, Hayward Elementary
Allen has a heart for children and youth, and makes his mentee feel like he is the most important person in the world. Allen provides a good balance of having fun and addressing concerns or issues the student is experiencing. He is a very committed, reliable mentor. Allen was impacted by people investing in his life, and is “paying it forward” in the lives of his mentees.

Rich Lauer
Rich Lauer is a nine-year veteran mentor. He is dedicated, reliable and caring. Rich established an easy, trusting rapport with the boys he mentors. He discovers what their interests are, and finds books, newspaper articles, websites and pictures that will pique their curiosity. Rich makes a difference in the lives of his mentee each year.

Mark Nielsen
For the past five years, Mark has been a faithful mentor to his student. He has made a forever difference in the life of his mentee. Mark has quietly but consistently been a mentor since 2001, making a steadfast commitment to the program and the students he has worked with. His student said, “thank you for coming every week to spend time with me.”

Bonnie Overweg
Bonnie is very consistent about coming to school to meet with her mentee. Oftentimes, they work on reading and her mentee commented that she is now reading chapter books. If Bonnie is traveling, she always brings back a special token to let her mentee know that she was thinking about her during the time away. According to her student, Bonnie is “the best person she has ever met.”

Marlene Ross
Marlene can be best described as “compassion in action.” Any time her mentee is asked about support systems in her life, Marlene is near the top of the list. When her student has a success to celebrate, she wants Marlene to be one of the first to know. Marlene always knows just the right activity to do and just the right things to say in order to make her student feel like she is a contributor and an important part of the community.

Kristina Schaefer
“She knows more about me than almost everyone” is what Kristina’s mentee recently said. Her student admires her for everything she stands for, her character, kindness, reliability, positive attitude, listening and just “being there” are why her mentee is excited each week. The match plans to stick together, and the transition to middle school will be much better for her student with the support and encouragement from Kristina.

Jerry Schmidt
Everyone lights up when Jerry visits school each week, especially his mentee. Jerry is a committed mentor who has made a difference in the life of his student. When his student transferred schools, Jerry arranged to be there on the first day at the new school to help him. His student says his favorite memory from last year was having a mentor.

Heidi Schultz
Heidi has been matched with her current mentee since 2008. Having a friend who consistently shows up week after week and year after year is unbeatable in adolescent eyes. While their personalities are opposite, Heidi has developed a relationship with her student that is unlike any other her student has with an adult. Since she met Heidi, her mentee says that she has become more outgoing and interactive. She said Heidi, “makes me feel secure, something I wasn’t before I met her.”

Delena Tupy
It is evident that Delana loves mentoring! She started four years ago with one student, and since then has seen the need increase and has taken on two additional students. She is constantly bringing in educational books and having her mentees do service projects or make things to share with others. One of her mentees said, “I can tell her everything and I know she really cares about me. She always has a big smile on her face.”

Troy Weber
Troy has been mentoring his current student for the past two years. In that time, his student has become more comfortable talking with others and has really shown an increase in confidence. His mentee says, “Troy has been there for me every week. If I’m not in a good mood or down in the dumps, Troy cheers me right back up!” Troy truly embraces the opportunity to make a difference to his mentee.

Nikki Weiland
Nikki is a dedicated mentor who is matched with a student who loves to go outside and play. Her mentee feels so special to have a cheerleader watch him at recess. If the student makes a poor choice, Nikki helps them calm down and get along with others – something her mentee can now do on their own! Her students teacher says, “all my kiddos what a mentor like Nikki.”

Amanda Witt
Amanda provides a constant for her mentee, whose life often has little predictability. Because of her calm approach to mentoring, her student has the best attendance, grades and behavior she has ever had – during her freshman year of high school! Her student laughs and reported it makes her day when Amanda always says, “bee have” as they wrap up a meeting.

If you are interested in becoming a mentor, please apply today. If you are wanting to help in a different way, please consider making a contribution to LSS. Together, we can make a difference!

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