Connecting Across the Miles (or Just Across Town)

Do you want to make an airplane? This is a very popular activity for our matches lately!

Due to the social distancing requirements, mentoring has looked a bit different this Spring, but BCYMP and our Mentoring Pairs have adapted. Recently, over a 6-week period, with the partnership of Avera Behavioral Health’s intern and SDSU graduate student, Kanbi Knipling, and three trained Mentors, BCYMP was able to serve students on our waiting list with small virtual mentoring group. Students were empowered to help plan activities, such as teaching the group paper airplanes or creative games they knew, and had more than a few laughs and lots of smiles during the time spent together. 

Kanbi stated, ““As we all try to adjust to and cope with the numerous changes and uncertainties we are continuing to collectively face, positive connection and consistency are more important than ever. Through these virtual groups, we were able to provide our group members with exactly that: an innovative way to connect with others, have fun, collaborate, and have something to look forward to every week. Most importantly, these groups provided members with the chance to simply be kids.”

We are hopeful to pair these students with their one-on-one mentor in the coming months and grateful we were able to be one additional avenue for them to have connected with new friends in the meantime. The small group mentoring program will continue this Fall, along with our 1:1 community-based mentoring program. For now, the small groups are planned to be school-based.

BCYMP has continued to support matches, encouraged communication, and assisted sharing engaging mentoring ideas to support mentoring. Recently, BCYMP asked our one-on-one mentors how they are staying connected. Texting was the most used communication tool, with video conferencing ranking high as well. These are no ordinary video conferencing calls either! Mentors have played board games, looked for a polka-dotted object on a scavenger hunt, shared their artistic and musical talents, and mentees have taught the mentors a thing or two about a favorite hobby. One of our mentors now knows the ins and out of Pokemon catching!

Mentors have still had their challenges during this time too. Using technology to communicate is not always accessible to our mentees. However, we continue to hear from our mentors that they are still reaching out and offering to be the support person if a mentee needs to chat. One mentor who sent a package mentioned, “I made a simple puzzle for him and gave him instructions from making his homemade volcano erupt.” Mentors continue to amaze us in their willingness to go above and beyond. When technology isn’t helping them connect they pivot and use avenues such as snail mail – sending homemade activity kits, snack packages, making sure a birthday card is sent, or a simple letter letting the mentee know they are being thought of.

BCYMP staff, mentors, and mentees all yearn for the days we are able to enjoy a large group activity together again, but until then our mentees are in caring hands and being checked in on by some fantastic individuals in Brookings County. Huge thank you to all of these individuals that put our youth first and desire to make an impact in one young person’s life.

There are still nearly fifty K-12 grade students in Brookings County waiting for a Mentor like you! Please consider volunteering an hour a week to provide friendship, guidance and expanded possibilities for a young person’s future. Email or see our website for more details.


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