Every week at John A. MacDougall School (JAM), there’s a team huddle. The principal, three teachers, and the All In For Youth team all get together to see if anyone has noticed if any of their students could use extra support. Last school year, a sweet girl in Grade 2 named Sophie* came up in the conversation.
Keara, the school-based facilitator with BGCBigs, had noticed that Sophie and her younger sister had stopped attending after-school programming.
“When Sophie was still attending, she wouldn’t participate and often she would call her Grandma to come pick her up early,” Keara explains. “She would sit off to the side. And something about her demeanor made me wonder if she wasn’t as happy and carefree as the other kids.”
Since Keara is part of the All In For Youth team working full time at JAM, she feels like she is really getting to know the kids. She has a better sense of their personalities and that’s important when she’s trying to match them to a volunteer. Plus, the weekly huddles are a great chance for each of the staff to share what they’ve noticed and make sure that every kid who needs extra support –regardless of in what capacity – has access to it.
In the huddle, Keara asked Sophie’s teacher if she thought in-school mentoring might be beneficial. With the teacher on board, Keara then reached out to Sophie’s Grandma, who came in immediately to get the paperwork completed.
Keara learned that Sophie’s mom left the year before. It hasn’t been easy on Sophie; she misses her mom and has often talked about walking to go find her even though she doesn’t even live in Edmonton.
Before Grandma left the school, Keara was able to connect her to the other All In For Youth services, and she took the opportunity to get some advice from the school therapist.
“This just strengthened my resolve to find Sophie a mentor,” Keara says. “I wanted her to have another consistent adult in her life, maybe even someone a little bit younger who she could relate to.”
Super young and full of energy, Lisa* seemed like she would be the perfect match for Sophie.
“When they first met, I was expecting Sophie to be shy, like most kids when they meet a new adult,” Keara says. “But she completely surprised me.”
Sophie’s Grandma and the other staff had warned Keara that Sophie wasn’t always open to new programs. But during the first match meeting, she was open and bubbly and excited about meeting her volunteer.
“She even turned into a little leader and showed Lisa around the school and introduced her to everyone,” Keara says with a smile. “I didn’t expect it and I was so proud of her.
Though this is a relatively new match, it is already successful. Sophie and Lisa have spent their time together each week getting to know each other, making crafts, playing board games. Lisa feels like they are really starting to connect and Sophie talks non-stop about Lisa to her Grandma.
Now Sophie’s only concern is that she wants her younger sister to have a mentor too.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the youth.