It’s often the little things that make a big difference in kids’ lives. I’ve been mentoring a student at Burton Elementary School for the past two years. Kids in his class are recognized when they get a good spelling test score and week after week, my little guy’s name wasn’t on the board. And then, after a lot of hard work, it was. For someone who often takes spelling and literacy for granted, the quiet pride I saw in him that day told me I was making a difference.
Blue Cross mentors and reading volunteers with their Burton Elementary School pals. I’m not the only one. There are five Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan employees who mentor students for an hour each week at Burton through the Affinity Mentoring program. Another 12 spend an hour reading to students weekly. Other West Michigan companies, such as Gordon Food Service, support the program through financial contributions and mentors as well. There are currently more mentees than there are mentors to match them with, the need is so great. Burton is home to some of the most under-resourced children in Grand Rapids, with 98 percent of students receiving free or reduced-cost lunches because their households are at or below the poverty level. That one hour of focused adult attention every week makes a big difference. Mentoring has been shown to improve kids’ school attendance and their chances of attaining higher education. Mentees are less likely to start using drugs and to start drinking. Affinity Mentoring is working to “interrupt the cycle of poverty through mentoring relationships that improve students’ academic achievements, social skills and self-esteem.” I believe so much in their mission that I’ve become a board member, committing Blue Cross to provide ongoing financial support for the program and employees ready to step up to change a child’s life. Becoming a mentor is a great way for professionals, parents and retirees to give back and make a connection. My student has grown and changed so much since I first met him as a third-grader. We always start our hour by playing soccer or football and doing something athletic. After that we focus on reading and math skills and sometimes just talk. He’s always happy to see me and as much as he’s progressed, I can’t help but think I’m the one who gets the most out of our time together. If you’d like to become a mentor, you can learn more about Affinity Mentoring here. If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
- Why Volunteering is a Healthy Habit to Start
- Make Time to Volunteer All Year Long
- Creating a Successful Employee Volunteer Program
About the author: Jason Loepp is a sales director at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, based in Grand Rapids. He’s also an Affinity Mentoring board member. Photo credit (feature image): Paolo Braiuca