It’s noon on Wednesday at ATB Financial’s downtown Edmonton headquarters. The main boardroom on the 21st floor is buzzing with activity.
No, it’s not a meeting of the company’s top executives. Right now, the boardroom is occupied by grade one and two students from Delton School and their ATB mentors.
Each week, the group gathers at ATB Place for the Boys & Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton & Area (BGCBigs) corporate mentoring program. The program allows inner city children to connect with adults in the corporate world.
“The mentors provide support by being caring and spending time with the kids, by doing things that are fun and of interest to the kids, and by helping them with school work.” says BGC Bigs’ Allison Russell.
“Basically just being there for them, being someone to talk to and showing interest in them.”
Each week at lunchtime, 11 students from Delton spend an hour with their ATB mentors. For the first 20 minutes, they work on activities, or school work such as math or reading. Then, they get some free time to play games or do crafts.
Saegan, a grade two student, loves coming to ATB every week and spending time with his mentor.
“We do crafts and it’s super fun. We always play a fun game together,” he says.
“The mentors always make things funner. They help us with stuff. If we can’t solve something, they help us.”
ATB also provides funds for program supplies and bussing the students from school through Helping Hands, a program set up especially to support causes ATB team members care about. ATB’s Kandice Kew is responsible for organizing volunteers and planning activities. She’s noticed a tremendous difference in the children since they first walked through the door in September.
“I’ve seen a lot of confidence boosting,” says Kew.
“They’re happy and excited to be here. When we work on school work, they want to show us how much they’ve progressed. A lot of them have come out of their shell and have become more outgoing.”
Russell agrees, adding the children have really warmed up to their adult mentors during the course of the year.
“Sometimes they’re a little bit sceptical about adults,” she says of the Delton students.
“They come from the inner city. Some come from tough families. They’re not so sure about adults. They don’t trust them. But any time I come to the school, they ask: when do we get to go next? When do I see my mentor? They love it.”
And speaking of the mentors, they love the program, too.
“There’s something indescribably therapeutic about sitting down and playing with Lego for 20 minutes,” Kew laughs.
“It’s a great break in the workday. It feels like you’ve accomplished something with your time. It’s a fantastic program. I’m behind it 100 per cent.”
Think your organization or company would be interested in becoming a corporate mentor? Learn more here or get in touch with us directly!
This story was originally published by ATB Financial on We Are Alberta. Words by Barry Strader. Photo by Holly Regel.by