Forty-five-year-old Sherry Klassen skips out of work to go to school for one hour every week. During one recent school visit, she played on the spinning tornado until she was dizzy and hung upside down like a monkey from the monkey bars.
An investment associate, Klassen gets time off work to play because she volunteers as a big buddy for Big Brothers Big Sisters as an in-school mentor. Through the program, Klassen spends an hour a week at a local elementary school trying to keep up with her very active little buddy, eight-year-old Kara.
Running at four Sunshine Coast elementary schools, the In-School Mentoring Program is a one-to-one encouragement program for boys and girls in grades 1 to 7. Children and their mentors meet for one hour each week throughout the school year. They play games or sports, do arts and crafts or just hang out on the playground with the sole goal to increase children's self-esteem.
"Although I have no children of my own, I have tons of them in my life and have always enjoyed my time with them," Klassen said of her reason on joining the program. "No matter how busy I am, I knew I could commit to an hour a week."
Now matched with her second little buddy, Klassen has experienced first hand the reward of mentoring a child.
She recalls her first little buddy who was sometimes absent from school due to illness, but never missed the days they were scheduled to visit.
"When I mentioned this to her, she said she made a point of never getting sick on our days," said Klassen. "This was her way of telling me she looked forward to our time together."
Parents, teachers and event studies indicate that kids with mentors have more confidence, get better grades and have better personal relationships.
Of course, volunteers like Klassen are also proof that the volunteer time is beneficial to them as well.
"If I'd known how much I would look forward to my hour each week, I would have done this sooner," she said. "Now I keep my running shoes in the car so I can do kid stuff every week."
Big Brothers Big Sisters Sunshine Coast offers the innovative In-School Mentoring Program at West Sechelt, Kinnikinnick, Gibsons and Cedar Grove elementary schools. They desperately need volunteers to step up as Klassen has. For more information or to apply to be a mentor, visit www.mentorsunshinecoast.com or call 1-604-876-2447.