By Gabrielle Gasser EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – A program that pairs Big Sky School District students and adult mentors is currently seeking more mentor applicants.
The Child Advancement Project mentoring program has been active in Big Sky for nine years and currently has 11 student-mentor matches that meet for an hour each school week to read, play outside, do crafts or just talk.
The CAP program, run by Bozeman-based nonprofit Thrive, uses their match program to help students from several schools in the area succeed.
Lindsey Herring, who recently stepped into the role of BSSD CAP Coordinator, said she is trying to get the program back up-and-running after a challenging year of virtual meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her goal is to have 20 matches by the end of the school year.
Originally from Southern California, Herring moved to Montana in 2010 to work for Big Sky Resort. She found her passion working with children through her position at Lone Peak Playhouse and she hopes to use her experience working with children to expand the CAP program at BSSD.
The program matches mentors, community members aged 18-and-older, with kindergarten through 12th grade BSSD students who were nominated by teachers or parents for the school year. Herring says she creates matches based on personality interests and meetings can involve a variety of activities with a focus on supporting students with individualized attention.
Right now, Herring said she has six students who need mentors and a few mentors who need students. Based on gender preferences, the students and mentors currently in the queue won’t make good matches, Herring said. Now she is asking the Big Sky community to get involved and create more matches to reach her 20-match goal.
Jan Weber has been volunteering with the CAP program for four years and she has been with her current match for three years. Weber has met with Elijah Brauer each school week since he was in the first grade. The pair spends their time reading, working on projects and catching up, Weber says.
“It’s been crazy to watch how they grow across that period of time,” Weber said. She described the excitement of watching Elijah hit different benchmarks and grow not just physically but emotionally as well.
When Weber and Elijah, who’s an avid reader, couldn’t meet in person because of COVID-19, they had a reading competition where he won a $2 bill for every book that he read.
“I certainly encourage people to volunteer to do this,” she said. “I think as a mentor, you get as much out of it as the mentee does and it’s absolutely rewarding.”
Herring agrees that the program can be just as beneficial for the mentors as it is for the mentees and she says it is a great way for mentors to make a difference in the Big Sky community.
“The CAP program specifically targets students who just need an extra person in their life to listen to them,” Herring said, “someone that can be an extra voice, help them gain confidence, social support, make them excited about their future, maybe work on career goals, college goals, anything like that just to keep them motivated to get through school and make them wake up excited and happy to go to school and meet with their mentor each week.”