Retired teachers typically don’t spend much time on go-karts. Unless, that is, those teachers are mentors.
That’s one of Eileen Bergerson’s favorite parts of LSS Mentoring Services. The 68-year-old’s bimonthly outings with 11-year-old Akina Armentrout open her eyes to new experiences, like go-kart excursions, concerts or trips to trampoline parks.
The two were matched initially through LSS In-School Mentoring. When schools stopped admitting volunteers early in the COVID-19 pandemic, they shifted to LSS Community Mentoring. Now, they meet in- and out-of-school.
”It’s just fun,” Eileen said during a pre-bike ride picnic with Akina at Family Park in late July. ”I go places I wouldn’t go without Akina.”
The pair’s playful friendship is the true payoff. Their easy interactions and genuine appreciation for one another are marks of the familiarity and comfort built over four years together – sometimes just hanging
out at a park.
”There’s a lot that you can do without spending money,” she said. “You don’t need money. You just need the time: four hours a month.”
Akina appreciates the experiences, since her grandmother and mother stay so busy with her brothers, work and other commitments.
”I love hanging out with her,” Akina said. ”She encourages me to do more things and do what I love, and to always be myself no matter what… you don’t have to change who you are for someone else.”
YOU ARE MENTOR MATERIAL
LSS partners with more than 70 Sioux Falls area schools to match volunteer mentors with students. Volunteers are screened before being matched with a student and offered support to ensure success.
Most mentors spend an hour a week in schools, but LSS Mentoring Services offers a variety of programs for connections in school, out of school or a combination of both.
LSS leads group activities for its high school and community programs, and keeps mentors informed on community activities and amenities.
More than 200 Sioux Falls youth are waiting for a mentor. Are you willing to help? Visit LssSD.org to learn more about LSS Mentoring Services.