Meet the 2018 Outstanding Rookie Mentor Nominees

March 23, 2018

Each year, LSS welcomes nominations for the Sanford Outstanding Rookie Mentor Award. School counselors nominate mentors in their first or second year of service who have gone above and beyond and have made a pretty immediate impact on the student they are matched with. We received four wonderful nominations this year. Please read about each mentor!


Anita Jorgensen, Mentor at Lowell Elementary, Employed at Sanford
In the year that they have met, Anita has gone above and beyond for her student. The two can be found playing games and reading books together every week. Anita has given extra attention by helping with classroom parties and field trips. Anita’s student is really shy in the classroom, but when Anita is by her side, she is social and confident. Anita truly brings out the best in this student!

Elliot VanWell, Mentor at Hawthorne Elementary, Augustana Student
While completing a practicum at Hawthorne, a classroom teacher asked Elliot if he would be interested in mentoring a student who was in desperate need of a positive male role model. He immediately agreed! Elliot is a natural mentor who just gets it. The student’s attitude has changed since Elliot came into his life – he is seeing for the first time how a male can have a positive impact on society.

Stu Webber, Mentor at Patrick Henry Middle School, Employed at Denny Sanford PREMIER Center
When starting to mentor this year, Stu agreed to meet with two middle school boys. He always creates a positive environment with his students. Stu makes each student feel like they are important and truly listens to what they say. Teachers have noticed that one of the students Stu mentors has more opinions now rather than following the crowd, which has been a very positive change for this child.

Cathy Zerfas, Mentor at Harrisburg Liberty Elementary, Retired
Cathy began mentoring two girls after attending an LSS Try-It event. Her big heart could not turn away either student she met at the event. Cathy decided to get involved with mentoring after her granddaughter moved out of state and says, “Mentoring saved me, every bit as it’s maybe helping these two little girls.” Cathy brings both students that extra care they need to feel more confident throughout their day.

The recipient of the award will be named at the 2018 LSS Mentor Appreciation Breakfast on Friday, April 20. Thanks to Sanford for their generous sponsorship of this award!

Post by Michelle Madsen

51 Students Visit Pierre

March 22, 2018
students enjoy the sunshine on the capitol steps

Students Enjoy the Sunshine on the Capital Steps

Wednesday, February 28, was a busy day for many Sioux Falls refugees and immigrants. Waking up early in the morning and boarding a bus, 51 adult English language learners, 3 teachers, and 1 volunteer spent the day traveling to Pierre, SD, to see the state capital, watch the House session, meet the governor, talk with government officials, visit the Korean and Vietnam War Memorial, and tour the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center. It was a fun day for everyone!

Representing 15 countries, the students met with Senator Reynold Nesiba, Laura Trapp of the Department of Labor, and Policy Advisor Matt Konenkamp. They also were able to have a photo with Governor Daugaard in the capital rotunda, and Representative Tom Holmes gave a warm welcome to the students in the House.


Students Rest and Have Lunch

After returning to Sioux Falls, McKervans, a young man from Haiti said, “I had fun, so I want to go next year again. It is important to know other things like the museum and capital in Pierre. I’m so glad because I was able to know the capital for my first time.”

half of the students with Matt Konenkamp

Students with Matt Konenkamp in the Governor’s Office

half of the students with Matt Konenkamp #2

LSS CNA Studnets with Governor Daugaard 2018

Students and Teachers pose with Gov. Daugaard

Thank you to the South Dakota Department of Labor and Adult Education and Literacy for sponsoring the event.


Heather and Laura with a few students

Everyone Enjoyed an Eventful Day

Meet Chad and Ben

February 23, 2018

Chad and Ben“If you’re having trouble and need to talk it out, wish for a mentor.” That is what Ben, a 6th grader at Harrisburg North Middle School, said. He went on to say that he felt lucky that he has been able to meet with Chad Erickson for the past four years.

Chad, who works at US Bank, has enjoyed mentoring and is glad he got involved. “Mentoring grounds me. It helps to keep things real. It’s easy to get busy with day to day routines. Mentoring is a nice break and now I don’t know what I would do without it,” said Chad.

Each week, Chad and Ben spend their time talking and playing games. Battleship and Brick Breaker are among their favorites right now. One thing they often talk about is how to avoid conflict.

According to Ben, he was a “mischievous kid” when he was in 3rd grade and had trouble before that year with getting mad. Chad and Ben discussed the book Soda Pop Head on a regular basis. Visits from Chad have been great for Ben. “It’s a break from other kids and bullies,” said Ben. “Chad really gets me. We like the same things. We can talk out situations and he helps me. He’s a person I can actually trust.”

As much as mentoring has helped Ben, Chad has enjoyed it and looks forward to the future. Like everyone, he had reservations before starting. “You don’t really know what you’re getting into when you apply,” said Chad. “Now that I have seen the benefits and that Ben has come a long way for the better, I can’t imagine if I was not part of it.”

They are both excited to see what the future brings. When asked what they will remember about their time together twenty year from now, Ben said he will remember “having a real close friend.” And Chad said, “no matter what, I will always remember Ben.”

After meeting Ben, he is someone I will remember for awhile too. He is an enjoyable kid who really thrives when his mentor is around.

Know a great mentor?

February 13, 2018

LSS Mentoring Services is seeking nominations for the 2018 Citibank Outstanding Mentor, the Sanford Outstanding Rookie Mentor and First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard Community Partner awards. The awards, to be presented at the Annual Mentor Appreciation Breakfast on April 20, provide a platform to honor the contributions of individuals and organizations that have shown outstanding commitment to the mentor program.

Outstanding mentors are individuals who have proven their dedication to their student and the program. Rookie mentor nominees are people who have made a big impact in their first or second year of mentoring. Community partners nominations can include businesses, organizations, civic groups, schools or churches that have encouraged and advocated mentoring. If a community partner has received the award in the previous three years, they are not eligible this year. Organizations not eligible are Hegg Realty (2017), Oak Hills Church (2016) and Sanford Health (2015).

Anyone can make a nomination and self-nominations are also accepted. Please submit your nomination using the form below.

Nomination Form 2018

All nominations are due Monday, February 26. Materials may be sent via email to, via fax to 444-7540 or mailed to LSS Mentoring Services, 705 E 41st Street, Suite 220, Sioux Falls, SD 57105.

The 2018 Mentor Appreciation Breakfast is sponsored by First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard, Citi, Sanford, Wells Fargo, Raven Industries and HenkinSchulz Communication Arts.

For additional information on the nomination process, or to become a mentor, please call LSS Mentoring Services at 444-7803 or email

The Heart-Shaped Holiday

February 12, 2018


Everyone is seeing red. Valentine’s Day is here. The day for lovers, for family, for friends, for co-workers – the official day when we show the important people in our lives how much they mean to us. The day is celebrated with cards, flowers and chocolates – and lots of them. Many of us grew up with the annual tradition of Valentine’s Day, we remember our parents and grandparents reminiscing about it.


But how long has this special day actually been around? The answer is quite simple: Forever. The beginnings of this romantic day are anything but romantic – they are rather mysterious. Christian and Pagan rituals evolved into the way Valentine’s Day is celebrated today.
Many legends surround the saint named Valentine. One story tells about Valentine, a Roman priest, who secretly married young lovers until he was found out and thrown into prison. There, he fell in love with a young woman who visited him on a regular basis. Shortly before his death he penned her a letter and signed it ‘from your Valentine,’ a phrase that is still associated with this special day. All the tales that speak of the beginnings of this tradition center around a romantic hero named Valentine.
The British Library in London has the oldest Valentine’s card on display – written in 1415 by the Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was held in the Tower of London. Americans started designing their own hand-made cards, beautifully decorated with ribbons and lace, as far back as 1700. In 1840 these cards were replaced by the first printed, mass-produced cards. About 150 million Valentine’s Day cards exchange hands every year, only the number of Christmas cards is higher; 85% are bought by women.
Many countries around the world celebrate the day with their own traditions. Denmark sees the exchange of pressed, white flowers called snowdrops. France, with a reputation for romance, had a rather unusual tradition. On February 14, men and women would fill up houses on opposite sides of a street. Then they would call out to each other and pair off that way. The women who were left behind later gathered for a huge bonfire where they burned pictures of the men who stood them up and insulted them greatly. Over the years, this event got so out of hand that the French government banned it altogether. In China women prepare elaborate offerings of fruit to Zhinu, a heavenly king’s daughter, in hopes of attracting a worthy husband.
How are you celebrating Valentine’s Day?

Written by Silke Hansen, ESL Instructor



January 16, 2018

“What movement tried to end racial discrimination?” The Civil Rights Movement
“What did Martin Luther King, Jr. do?” Fought for civil rights

As a Citizenship Class instructor, I have the privilege of sharing about the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. every session. Before discussing the 1960s, we cover the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, and the Emancipation Proclamation. The focus then jumps to World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II before moving to Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. The history questions for the Naturalization Interview do not hide the long history of slavery in the United States. Students learn early in the session that slavery existed in the “thirteen original colonies.”

“What group of people was taken to America and sold as slaves?” People from Africa

To help students understand “racial discrimination” and what life was like in the United States for many African Americans following the Civil War and during the time of Dr. King, we often look at the infamous pictures of segregated water fountains and bathrooms. I tend to avoid the darker pictures of lynchings and angry mobs, not wanting to rouse any post-traumatic stress in our refugee and immigrant clients.

In reality, they “know” discrimination in a much deeper sense than me, their instructor. Many experienced racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination in their own countries. The Nepali-speaking refugees from Bhutan, the Kunama refugees from Eritrea, the Karen and Karenni refugees from Myanmar and many other minority groups that we serve at the Center for New Americans fled or were expelled from unbearable conditions.



(Photo courtesy of AND JUSTICE FOR ALL)


Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote the lines above in 1963 from where he sat in a Birmingham jail following mass demonstrations of organized civil disobedience. Its truth rang loudly when it was first read, and continues to resonate reality today. I love my job and I love interacting with and learning more about my students, but their daily presence is also a stark reminder that gross injustices have occurred and continue to occur in many of their countries. I am grateful they now live in the United States without fearing for their lives. I am grateful for the rights guaranteed them and protecting them in the Bill of Rights and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but I wonder about their family and friends not here…those still in the refugee camps, those still in their native countries. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” My students remind me that we are all responsible for each other.

Written by Kadie Becker; Reposted by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor

Better Together in Brookings

January 10, 2018

Pat and Sue are a great Better Together match. Click on the video above to watch their story!

Better Together, a program of Lutheran Social Services designed to improve quality of life activities for older adults, has expanded to Brookings!

The program started in Sioux Falls in January 2015 in collaboration with the Sioux Empire United Way. In early 2017, LSS contracted with a consulting firm to look at opportunities to expand the program beyond Sioux Falls. Brookings was the community identified through this process as being the most capable and ready for Better Together.

To help carry out the program in Brookings, LSS has partnered with the Volunteer Service Bank. This organization, embarking on its 25th year of service will assist with local coordination and will help both volunteers and seniors get started.

In the program, trained volunteers will be matched with an older adult based on similar interests and schedule. Volunteer and older adult matches will spend four hours per month together going on outings, talking, pursuing hobbies, and other relationship-building activities.

With nearly half of people aged 65 and older in South Dakota living alone, there is need to use volunteers to help maintain or reestablish a connection to their community.

If you are interested in volunteering for the program in Brookings, apply here. If you know of an older adult who would benefit from this service, please let them know to call us at 444-7801 or complete an intake application.

Post by Michelle Madsen

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