2017 Mentor Breakfast Recap

April 21, 2017

This week we celebrated mentors with our annual LSS Mentor Appreciation Breakfast. It was an amazing event and as always, reinforced the importance of mentoring. We owe thanks to the sponsors of the event – First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard, Citibank, Sanford Health and Wells Fargo.

Mentors were welcomed with tables full of artwork and thank you cards made by students in the program. The notes were both heartwarming and funny. We will share more in a later post, but here is what just a few of them said:

Thank you for being my mentor. You are an awesome person to be with and talk to. I’m glad they picked you to be with me.

You have been the best mentor ever and it has been really fun spending time with you. You da boom!!!!

My mentor is a pretty cool guy and school would not be the same without him.

This year, the keynote was a panel that included Randy Bury, a longtime mentor; Moises Perez Quentanilla, a senior at Lincoln High School who has met with Randy for the past 11 years and Kerri Cox, the school counselor at Robert Frost Elementary. They shared great perspective and insight on mentoring and what it means to them. Kerri shared the many amazing moments she has been part of through mentoring. One of the most meaningful ones she shared was that a mentor went on to adopt his student. She also said how creative mentors are when they visit each week and that some people just love the break and the opportunity to just sit a color or play a board game in the middle of the day. Randy talked about how much Moises has grown. They recently went car shopping and Randy helped Moises pick out a new car. Moises shared that Randy is a terrible bowler and that he knows his life would be different if Randy was not part of it.

The event concluded with the presentation of the Outstanding Mentor, Outstanding Rookie and Community Partner Awards. Congratulations to Curt Lauret, Trey Townsend and Hegg Realtors for their accomplishments!

Trey came to mentor at Edison through an Augustana University education class in Spring 2016. Most of college students who are required to mentor only stay for the semester, but Trey wanted to stay with Gio and continue mentoring on his own. When Trey and Gio get together the room literally feels brighter and lighter. There is definitely a connection there that really works.

Curt has been a mentor for over 10 years. He has been mentoring the same student since he was a second grader and will continue to meet with him next year as he goes to middle school. Curt has been dependable, meeting his student where he is at and looking at what his needs are every week.

Just one year ago, Susan B. Anthony Elementary and Hegg formed a school/business partnership. The school relies on Hegg for help with unmet needs for their students, families as well as the school as a whole. When forming this partnership, the school stressed the need for more mentors for their students. At the end of last school year, there were about 20 mentors for Susan B. students. Right now, there are 40 thanks to the partnership with Hegg. There are currently 23 Hegg employees who mentor every week. Congratulations, Hegg and thank you for making mentoring a priority for your employees.

A big thanks to the Sioux Falls School District Community Relations team for creating the videos! It was a wonderful surprise to mentors at the breakfast and a great treat to hear from students who really enjoy their mentor.

As we wrap up the 2016-17 school year, LSS would like to sincerely thank all mentors who gave their time and energy each week!

Post By Michelle Madsen

Outstanding Mentors 2017

April 18, 2017

LSS celebrates mentors by hosting a Mentor Appreciation Breakfast each April. This year, the event is set for Wednesday, April 19, 7:30-8:30 AM at The District.

At the event, mentors who have made extraordinary contributions are honored as Outstanding Mentors. Here is the list for 2017:

Lynn Bren, Mentor at Harrisburg High School, Employed at Claims Associates
Lynn has demonstrated her investment to her student and the mentor program through her consistency and dedication. Lynn utilizes her outgoing personality to connect with her student, and she manages to get him talking even though freshmen boys can be resistant to opening up. She utilizes creative techniques to understand the things happening in her students life through various questioning strategies as well as focusing on the student’s needs rather than her own agenda. She is persistent and positive and a great resource for her student.

Eric Erickson, Mentor at Hayward Elementary, Employed at SDN Communications
The Point is to Serve has partnered with Hayward for a number of years. One of the many ways they help is by encouraging members to mentor students at the school. Eric enthusiastically took that challenge several years ago. It has been thrilling to watch his relationship with his student blossom. The match has a lot of fun together and Eric teaches and models how to be a person of integrity. He student says, “He is always nice to people. He doesn’t yell. He helps me with reading, writing and math. He is a REALLY nice guy!”

Jill Hansen, Mentor at Dell Rapids Middle School, Employed at BX Civil and Construction
Every time Jill and her student together, it is evident they are having a great time! Jill is always respectful of her student and speaks in a way that matches her students maturity level. She is a very consistent volunteer too! Her student says, “I like how Jill always smiles, even on her bad days. She is always respectful of me and is good at finding a way to make me feel better even when she doesn’t know what is going on.” Her student loves having Jill as her mentor and often says that everyone should have someone in their life that isn’t family or teachers to talk to – someone like Jill.

Pam Harris, Mentor at Harrisburg South Middle School, Retired
Pam is an outstanding mentor for many reasons. Her student looks forward to Pam’s visits with excitement and joy. Her student can be a bit choosy about who she befriends, but once she connects with someone, she is fiercely loyal. Pam has been the perfect match for her student – able to provide that consistent support and kindness for years. Pam has show over and over how loving and selfless she can be. She is really something special to her student.

Jennifer Hintz, Mentor at Robert Frost Elementary, Sioux Falls Lutheran School
Jennifer found out about mentoring through social media. She has been mentoring for over two years and is a consistent and loving presence in her student’s life. Jennifer offers sincerity, steadfast support and deep level of caring when she mentors. She shows up and is fully present for her student each week. Her student has experienced many important losses – leaving school and mentoring as the two constants in their life.

Curt Lauret, Mentor at Laura B. Anderson Elementary, Employed at Wells Fargo
Curt has been a mentor for over ten years, and has been with the same student the past five years. His student says, “He is always very respectful and pushes me to do my best. I know he really cares about me when he gives me fist bumps when our mentor time is coming to an end.” With Curt’s steadiness and encouragement, his student has learned to be able to be more confident in the decisions that he needs to make.

Shirley Leach, Mentor at John Harris Elementary, Retired
Shirley focuses on being a consistent, positive and focused person in her students life. She truly wants to get to know her student better with each visit she makes. She is always looking for new ways to be a better mentor for her student. Most importantly, Shirley is adaptable – she has worked to grow with her student and find ways to meet the student where she is at.

Shane Matthys, Mentor at Memorial Middle School, Employed at Astrazeneca
Since he first met his student, Shane has been supportive and encouraging. He always wants to know how best to support his student and makes an effort not to miss a week of mentoring. His student cites Shane’s easy going nature as one of his favorite things about him. His student went on to say, “He’s been very helpful and we can talk about problems. He’s kind of like a friend to all.”

Mary Nelson, Mentor at Dell Rapids Elementary, Employed at Dell Rapids School District
Mary is committed and comes with a ready and willing heart to serve and care for her student. She is reliable, shows genuine concern for her student , is flexible and seems to really enjoy her time at the school each week. Mary’s personality and ability to relate well to others have been important trails that she has role modeled for her student. She is such a natural as a volunteer and has the true heart of a mentor.

Crystal Nesburg, Mentor at Dell Rapids Elementary, Employed at Citibank
Crystal is always smiling and genuinely loves mentoring! She is trustworthy and reliable in her commitment to volunteer. She makes her student feel so great! Her student has improved in their confidence, self-control, maturity in relationships with others and their ability to carry out positive behaviors.

Jan Noer, Mentor at Eugene Field, Retired
Jan is a very caring and special person. She is very involved in her dedication to mentoring and has helped her student in many ways. She mentors a very smart student who sometimes struggles with behavior. Her student is always on their best behavior with her and loves their time together. Jan is a very important person to her student.

Debbie Olson, Mentor at George McGovern Middle School, Employed at Sanford
Debbie has a great balance of being both nurturing and pragmatic. She has been with er student every step of the way, including following them to four different schools. Debbie has mentored for seven years. Although she has a very full and busy life, she has made her student a priority and has never wavered from her commitment. She is an example of someone who has come along side a child with the hope of truly making a difference in their life.

Cinda Ortman, Mentor at New Tech High, Retired
Cinda is consistent, committed and flexible. Her student trusts her and loves that Cinda is supportive and kind. Her student says, “She is always trying to make sure that we have time together every week. She is kind and thoughtful. She talks to me and listens to what I have to say.”

Zachary Seefeldt, Mentor at JFK, Employed at Southeastern Behavioral
Zachary exemplifies the meaning of a mentor and his relationship with her student is the perfect model of what mentoring can do for a child. When first asking for a mentor, Zachary’s student requested someone who liked Star Wars and sports. His student has shown great emotional growth – much of which is attributed to his friendship with Zachary. His student says, “Zach is really nice, not rude and has lots of friends…he encourages me to stay out of trouble and get help when I need it.”

Carol Twedt, Mentor at Susan B. Anthony Elementary, Retired
Carol’s student was difficult to build a relationship with when they first started meeting three years ago. He was guarded and made her prove that she was going to be a trusting adult. The first day mentors could visit this year, her student was so excited that he ran up to her and hugged her so tightly! They just picked up their relationship right where they left off last spring. Her student is now one that does not get in trouble at school and is more respectful, engaged in learning and puts forth effort.

Bob Wendland, Mentor at Eugene Field, Employed at Washington Pavilion
Bob is a very pleasant person and brings the arts into his time with his student. At one point this year, he mentored two students. He is very consistent and caring with his students. He puts other before him, especially the students he mentors. His student can sometimes struggle with behavior. He was able to quickly build a relationship with this student and enjoys his time with Bob. It is great that Bob can be a much needed male role model for this student.

An Early Impact – Meet Outstanding Rookie Mentors

March 20, 2017

All mentors are outstanding in the eyes of the student that they meet with each week. Today we would like to share about a few who are making a big impact early in their mentoring relationship. School counselors get to see mentors and students interact, and every so often, they witness mentors with an extra special commitment…a touching moment…and whose sheer presence absolutely makes that student light up. Please take a moment to learn a little more about the 2017 Outstanding Rookie Mentors.

Linda was very good at gathering information to help her be successful as a mentor. She approached mentoring as something that should be fun, but also a serious responsibility. Linda was matched with a young student who moved away after just a few months of meeting her. As is typical, there was a possibility of the student returning to the community, so Linda decided to wait it out. She brought cards to school to be mailed to the student and always let the student know that she was thinking of her. When it became apparent the student was not returning to Sioux Falls, Linda was matched with another student. This student is so excited each week when Linda comes to visit.

Manuel just started his second year of mentoring this fall. He was anxious to get started as his student was entering middle school. He has an amazing relationship with his student. They play basketball, football or just chat. Manuel is willing to do exactly what his student needs and craves. He is reliable and has never missed a session. Manuel brings a great positive attitude that has made a different to his student.

Previously, students at Augustana were required to mentor as part of a class. Most of those mentors only stay for their required time. Trey was one of those students, but unlike most of his classmates, he was able to make mentoring work in his very busy schedule. And by busy schedule, he is taking 22 credits and pursing two – possibly three – majors. He and his student formed a great connection that really works. From appearances, Trey and his student are opposites. However, they have been a perfect match. His student has shown great maturity in the past year and attributes that to his mentor. He is able to easily talk to adults and is very polite – a skill taught to him by Trey.

Last year Oak Hills Baptist Church did a call for mentors and Doug answered the call. Doug has a knack for making everyone around him feel comfortable. He right away made an instant connection with his student. Doug’s student says, “Doug is my friend and helps me. He comes and sees me almost every week. It is fun to hang out with him. We laugh, play games and he is just there for me. I have several siblings at home so it is not always about me. I always feel good when I see Doug.”

Mr. Laughs-A-Lot & Legend

March 9, 2017

When we asked Legend, a 3rd grader at Laura Wilder Elementary, what he would name his mentor, he said Mr. Laughs-A-Lot. Legend says that his mentor Wes is always fun and cheerful.

Wes, who is retired, says that mentoring is a very rewarding experience. Wes says he learned the value of mentoring when he was young and had a great mentor. “When I was in 4th grade, I met a college student. He was then a coach for me when I was in junior high and I knew him my whole life,” said Wes.

When together, the two like to talk and play games. Legend says, “It’s fun to get a break from friends and be creative. He makes me happy.” The feeling is mutual as Wes says he loves being around such a creative and bright boy. The two have been meeting for three years now and recalled a fun story when Legend was doing pushups. Wes still remembers that Legend completed 26 pushups and how proud he was of himself!

Like many who mentor, Wes was encouraged by friends to apply. As he was retiring, a co-worker encouraged him to spend some of his new found spare time mentoring. At the same time, a friend from church was talking about the program. Now, Wes is encouraging others to apply. He said it would be nice to see more retirees mentoring. “It’s great to have a friend a couple of generations below me,” said Wes.

The two have definitely taught each other so much. Just as I was leaving the interview, Legend was talking about a You Tuber and how he wanted to be one himself in the future. Wes had not heard that term before and asked what that was. Legend loved explaining the nuances of his potential career to a listening ear. And Wes completed the moment by pointing out that you can learn something new everyday.

Post by Michelle Madsen

Thanks First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard

March 3, 2017

LSS is blessed to have volunteer mentors from over 100 different employers. We are incredibly thankful that area businesses recognizes the important contributions their employees can make by investing in the life of a child. For the past few years, one employer has consistently held the top spot for the number of mentors who work for their organization.

First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard has over 50 employees who faithfully mentor a student each week. In addition to their great support of the program in terms of volunteers, we are also appreciative of their financial support of the annual mentor appreciation breakfast. They are longtime sponsors of the event and we would not be able to hold it without their contribution.

Most of all though – PREMIER employees are amazing mentors. Here are a few stories from them that are too good to not share!

I have been mentoring for over 6 years and have enjoyed every minute of it.  I am fortunate that First PREMIER/PREMIER Bankcard allows me to use my lunch time to meet with my mentee once a week during the school year. I believe that mentoring promotes positive developmental outcomes for youth and provides an outlet for real life discussions.  Plus there is nothing like a warm welcome from a second grader who greets you as he leaves his classroom ready to share about his week.  I originally thought that I would be benefiting a child when I volunteered to mentor; however, it was me who is receiving the benefit.


I’ve been mentoring for 14 years, the last 10 years have been spent with the same student. From the beginning, he was quiet, kind and respectful. The moment I knew I was making a difference was at the end of our second year together. We met for the final visit of the year and he forgot to give me his year end appreciation gift that he had made. I received a call from the school telling me that he was crying and the only word he could say was my name. The school asked me to stop by the following day. He gave me the gift and a big hug. I reminded him that I was looking forward to meeting with him again the following year. Over the years, I’ve visited with him during some of his most difficult times. All I was able to do was listen and encourage. Today, while he still struggles with his studies at times, he has improved a great deal. He is far less shy and excels in band. We have more and more conversations about things that truly matter in life. It has been amazing watching him mature and become a young man with so much potential. I am thankful to PREMIER and the leadership team for not only allowing, but encouraging this community outreach initiative. It truly makes a difference.


Like many mentors, I’ve often wondered how one hour a week could possibly make a difference. But when I look back on my journey, I can see that it really has. I was matched with a beaming first grader who was asking the school counselor when she would get to meet her mentor the first time I met with her. I was delighted when the counselor motioned my way, and my student greeted me with a big hug. Those first few months we did little more together than read and play games, but it was clear when the end of the school year came that she valued our young relationship. She wept when we talked about our last meeting before school got out for the summer, fretting that we would never see each other again. It was a conversation that would repeat itself for the next three years.

I am so thankful for the gifts that mentoring has given me – perspectives on being a single parent, a minority, dyslexic; experiences with the amazing teachers and staff within the Sioux Falls School District, a chance to redeem some of the mistakes I made in my own youth, preparation for raising a teenage daughter of my own, friendship, and so much more. Nowadays, it’s easy to see how much an hour a week adds up and starts to shape a lifetime!


Mentoring has helped me to see how important relationships are and what it means to truly care for others by serving, listening and following through on commitments.  I am more aware of how to treat my own family and not to stress over the little things that in the end are not as bad as they first looked.


I believe that mentoring adds hope to a child’s school year. The eyes of the mentees light up with joy and enthusiasm. They look forward to telling their stories and having 100% of the mentors attention focused on them. I feel that the mentees are able to continue on with the school day with their heads held high and excited for the next week when their mentors will return. The mentors get just as much if not more back from time with their mentees.


I have to admit that it took many years of being encouraged to become a Mentor before I finally agreed to complete the application. Now I ask myself, why I waited so long! I’ve now been mentoring for the past three years. Just as I was, she was also unsure of how this program was going to work out for her. Initially she’d want to go outside, go to the gym and even asked if her friends could join in. Over a short period of time, these requests stopped as she understood that this was a special time for just the two of us. We play a ton of games, have completed many craft projects and have talked away many lunch periods.

There is no better feeling than to hear the words ‘Today I knew was going to be a great day, because I knew you were coming!’. It made me so proud when after introducing me to her class, that she informed everyone that she was going to be mentor and teach Junior Achievement when she grows up. I knew at that point, that I had made a difference. It absolutely warms my heart to be a part of her life and hopefully, made a difference. Teaching her whatever knowledge and insight I’ve managed to pick up along the way, being able to watch her grow and mature has given me a greater sense of pride than anything I’ve ever done for myself.

Thank you PREMIER Bankcard for giving me this opportunity to participate in this great program and to the folks who badgered me for so many years!



Middle School Matters!

February 23, 2017

The middle grades are important predictors of students long-term academic success. If there is a middle school student in your life it is important be aware of school requirements regarding academics as well as programs and services available to students. Mentors who know the answers to academic questions are in a much better position to help direct their student to resources that can help them throughout school and life.

Please join us on Thursday, March 2, 12-1 PM, as we welcome Dr. Sandra Henry to present a training on curriculum standards and requirements. Dr. Henry is the Middle School Curriculum Coordinator for the Sioux Falls School District and a mentor to a middle school student. She will cover what students need to do to succeed as well as give advice on how mentors can help. The training will take place at the LSS State Center, 705 E 41st Street. Please park in the back of the building. The training will take place in a first floor conference room. Please send an email to mentoring@LssSD.org or call 444-7803 to register.

Thanks Life 96.5!

February 17, 2017

The LSS Better Together program was blessed to be the Life 96.5 Radio “Hands and Feet” project this shutterstock_371623984February. The station has been encouraging listeners to volunteer – and the results have blown us away! We have received 11 new volunteer applications this month, and we are still anticipating more! For a growing program that currently has 25 active matches, the influx of volunteers is much needed and appreciated.

In addition to listeners committing to a year of participation in Better Together, we have teamed up with the station to hold opportunity to just try out the program. LSS and Life 96.5 are hosting a BINGO Night on Thursday, February 23, 6-7:30 PM at the LSS State Center, 705 E 41st Street. Employees of the station, LSS staff, current Better Together volunteers and participants as well as potential volunteers and older adults in need of a volunteer will gather to learn more about the program and enjoy a few rounds of BINGO. This will be a fun way for older adults and potential volunteers to see if this is the program for them before they commit. We are looking for additional volunteers to attend the BINGO Night. If you are interested, please RSVP by clicking here.

Volunteers in the Better Together program commit to spending four hours per month with an older adult for the purpose of socialization and relationship building. Typical activities include going out for coffee or a meal, running errands or doing fun things like going to a movie or community event. Individuals, couples or families can apply to be matched with a senior.

Learn more about the opportunities to join and who you can serve by clicking here.

Post by Michelle Madsen

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