Team Members Reflect on Being School Year Mentors

As the school year has wrapped up, a few members of the Bender team are reflecting on their time as mentors this past year.

Isaac Jorgensen is a mentor through TeamMates. He was introduced by a friend at GreatLIFE who was telling him about the program and mentioned that they were looking for mentors. According to their website, the TeamMates Mentoring Program originated in 1991. Since then, the program has evolved significantly, and thousands of boys and girls are currently served across the Midwest.

It was during COVID-19 that Jorgensen began mentoring. As a result, the weekly meetings were over Zoom. This year, he was able to visit with his mentee in school, and Jorgensen was fortunate enough to attend some of his mentees’ orchestra concerts. Their time spent together consisted of playing games, chatting about school, life, and day-to-day activities.

There were many values taken away from this experience, but the one thing that really stuck out to Isaac was that all individuals want to be heard and seen. Isaac learned the value of being intentional and present in discussion, and how special it is to spend time with others. It was critical that his mentee understood he was important. Isaac’s one-on-one connection with his mentee was a huge success. Isaac looks forward to being his mentor next year as well.

“If you’re interested in mentoring, do it, but keep in mind that you’ll need to be dedicated to it. You’ll have to make it a weekly priority. The mentees count on their mentor to show up. No matter how far out you put it on the calendar, something will come up, which is why it’s important to prioritize being a mentor,” remarked Isaac.

Bobbie Tibbetts is a mentor through Lutheran Social Services (LSS). For years, Tibbetts wanted to get involved, but with her previous job, her hectic schedule didn’t allow for it. When joining the Bender team, she prepared a list of community commitments she wanted to make. Mentoring was at the top of her list. Tibbetts is also apart of the Sioux Falls Downtown Rotary. In 2020, they chose to focus on mentoring. For the past 2 years, they have worked hard to raise awareness of mentoring and lift up organizations that can help connect volunteers.

Throughout this mentorship, Tibbetts enjoyed earning the trust of her mentee, and cherished how quickly she became a trusted resource for not only fun activities, but for advice as well. Tibbetts and her mentee spent their time at school walking around the playground, chatting, and playing games.

The value that Tibbetts took away from this year of mentoring was the idea that it’s the little things that really matter to individuals. Tibbetts expresses that we need to treat people with kindness and allow them to have a voice. Doing so, you will earn trusted relationships and gain so much from one another.

Mentoring is essential to Bobbie because she believes that everyone can benefit from a positive influence in their lives. Her hope is that she can be that positive influence for her mentee by creating a safe, positive, fun environment.

Tibbetts’ advice for individuals who are thinking about mentoring: “Do it. You will probably gain more from the experience than you think possible. If you commit to doing it, you need to show up. These amazing kids rely on you to be there; just by showing up, you make it clear that you care about them.”

Ellie Aldrich is also an LSS mentor. A few months after Aldrich started at Bender, she became active in the Lutheran Social Services Mentorship Program. Reggie Kuipers had invited her to attend the Crossroad Summits event where she heard Mayor Paul TenHaken discuss the Sioux 52 program. At this point, she was still new to town and didn’t know many people. It felt like a great way to get involved and give back to the community. Throughout high school and college, she worked in the childcare field. Once she graduated, it was difficult for her to leave that field and the children. She knew that once she got settled into town, she wanted to find a way to spend time with children.

“My mentorship experience was simply amazing. There was never a moment where I didn’t leave the elementary school with a big smile and a full heart,” Aldrich expressed.

While Aldrich was mentoring this past year, she learned a lot about her own support team. “I realized that not everyone has a support team, or a reliable one. From moving to another state right out of college with no family nearby, I relied on the Bender team to be my support system and family. They accomplished that and so much more! It’s hard to understand that others may not have a support system, but that’s where we can step up and be there for those who need support,” Aldrich remarked.

According to Ellie, mentoring is important because it serves as a source of growth, accountability, and guidance. Aldrich’s advice for those looking to mentor: “There is someone out there who needs your support. I know there are days where it seems like there is not enough time in the day to get things done, but if you have at least thirty minutes to an hour once a week, I think you should consider it. It’s not something you have time for, it’s something you make time for.”