By Barbara Rowley
BIG SKY – Long-time local Julie Grimm has accepted the position of Child Advancement Project Mentor coordinator for the Big Sky School District and will immediately begin recruiting weekly volunteers as CAP Mentors in the Lone Peak High School and Ophir school.
“I’m so excited to have this position, because I know the school, not just from going there, but also from being a frequent guest teacher,” says Grimm, who graduated from LPHS in 1996. A trained secondary education teacher, Grimm holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Carroll College, and has both taught at middle and high school levels and been a CAP-Mentor herself.
“As a mentor I worked with a student who struggled in math and set goals for her math progress. I think the real benefit of the program is that it is offers kids a weekly ‘check-in’ with an outside adult,” Grimm said. “Although I’m no math whiz, I was able to help her with her homework and connect with her, and she was doing exceptionally well by the spring.”
According to Grimm, the CAP Mentor program can match a variety of students with mentors. “Sometimes students are excelling in class and need extra time with a caring adult to work on taking their interest to the next level. A student who is an exceptional writer, for example, might be placed with a mentor who could help her get work published, or finish a short story to submit to a contest.”
Working as an employee of the Bozeman-based nonprofit Thrive, which runs CAP Mentor programs in all Bozeman’s schools, Grimm hopes to recruit and oversee 20 matches this school year. Mentors work one hour a week during the school day, and need to participate in two trainings – held in Big Sky – during the year.
Grimm already has two recruits, both Big Sky residents who love the program. They were volunteering in Bozeman and will now volunteer with kids in their own community.
Grimm’s roots in the community have already aided her recruitment efforts. She spoke to the Gallatin Canyon Women’s Club, and plans to meet with the Rotary Club and other local businesses. In Bozeman, Grimm notes, many businesses encourage employees to volunteer as a way of giving back to the community.
The benefits of the program are not a one-way street. “We see, in statistically-documented ways, what this program does for kids,” Grimm said. “But we also see what it does for mentors. I saw some mentors see their matches again this fall and it was heartwarming …how close these relationships are.”
Thrive’s CAP Mentor program was recently named to the National Registry of Evidence Based Programs and Practices. The National Registry assists the public by identifying scientifically-based approaches to preventing negative outcomes for children. Only three other mentor programs are in the registry.
The CAP-Mentor program was made possible by a three-year grant from the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation. Grimm will be the third new member of the Big Sky School District Guidance team, joining Beth Farhat, who coordinates internships, Guidance Counselor Leah Johnson, and a parent liaison position, for which the district is currently accepting applications.
Thrive is in charge of hiring for the parent liaison position and the CAP Mentor job, however, the parent liaison will work in the school. The George and Kym Rapier Foundation provided a grant to the Big Sky nonprofit Women In Action, who in turn made a three-year financial commitment to fund the job.