Jackrabbit Mentors

There are thousands of South Dakota State University Jackrabbit fans all around the world. For at least 60 Sioux Falls area K-12 students, they are especially thankful for their Jackrabbit friends. Those students have the honor of being mentored by an SDSU alum.

LSS Mentoring Services recently completed our annual survey, and in it we asked about higher education. Mentors are a smart bunch, with 75% earning a Bachelor’s degree and 23% of those completing a graduate degree. We asked where they went to school and the most common answer was…South Dakota State University!

We caught up with two SDSU alums who mentor, Dan Kippley and Kristina Schaefer, to talk about their experiences.

  1. Why is mentoring important?
    Kristina: It’s simple: by being a consistent presence in a child’s life, you have the opportunity to be a source of encouragement and support — and really make a difference in a child’s life.  It is an hour a week, and it one of the best hours I spend each week.Dan: Mentoring school age kids does have an impact on both the mentee and mentor. The second-grader that I see once a week offers a contagious smile that is always uplifting. By sharing a lunch hour, once a week, it is beneficial. My mentee’s school attendance increased dramatically according to his teacher.  Many young students today do not have the benefit of a lot of adult interaction.  A mentor helps fill that void.
  2. What other (if any) volunteer efforts are you currently or have you been involved with? 
    Kristina: I also coach Girls on the Run and volunteer at my daughter’s school.Dan: I am involved in service clubs, and the Chamber of Commerce.
  3. How is mentoring different from other volunteer opportunities?  
    Kristina: One of the great things about being a mentor is that you do not have to be an expert or possess any special skills – you simply have to show up.  While being a mentor, you can play a board game, do a craft project, read, or just talk – no preparation required. Plus, the school counselors and LSS are there to guide the students (and you) through any challenges – your job is simply to show up and be a consistent, stable presence in the mentee’s life! Almost everyone eats lunch, so why not spend one lunch hour a week making a difference?  It’ll be the best lunch hour you spend all week.Dan: Mentoring is less time consuming and by far more rewarding than the other activities I have been involved. I find myself looking forward to my lunch hour the day I visit the elementary school. The one on one experience with the student is gratifying. You quickly realize that you as a person can and do make a difference, one person at a time!
  4. Was volunteering important to you as a college student? Were you involved in any service projects while at SDSU?  
    Kristina: Volunteering has always been important to me.  I grew up with parents who volunteered their time in the community, so the importance of volunteering was instilled in me at a young age.   While in college, I was active in several groups that gave back to the community. I also worked at First Bank & Trust during my time at SDSU and was able to participate in several volunteer projects with the bank as well.Dan: While at SDSU, I served as a volunteer youth soccer coach the first year the program started in Brookings because there were not enough parents volunteering. That was around 1981. How soccer has evolved! The dozen 10 year olds quickly knew more about soccer than I did and we had a lot of fun learning together.
  5. What is one goal related to academics you have for your student? 
    Kristina: I currently have two mentees, one entering fourth grade and one entering her freshman year of high school, so we have very different academic goals. For my fourth grader, our primary focus is reading. My other student is entering high school, so we talk about selecting classes that prepare her for her eventual college career – and it can be stressful to think about when you are “only” a high school freshman.Dan: Reading and writing. The school counselor suggested that my mentee would benefit from reading more. Sometimes we will play games after lunch, and I will listen to my mentee read the instructions off the box on how to play the game, or I have him read other things to me. He even wrote a story about a fictitious character and had me save him from drowning in the story!

THANKS to Dan and Kristina for sharing your experiences with us! We are so appreciative of you and the other Jackrabbits who make time to mentor a student.

If you would like to get involved in mentoring, please call us at 605-221-2403 or visit our website for more information.

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