Mentoring helps the youth of Brookings to reach their full potential

Jenna Petrak

Jenna PetrakReporter

Promoting one-on-one mentoring efforts for kids in the Brookings community and surrounding areas is what The Brookings County Youth Mentoring Program is all about.

“The program was developed to ensure all youth have the guidance and support of a caring, stable adult,” said Jo Woodard, the BCYMP program director.

Woodard said there are currently 120 people that mentor kids. There are also 60 pending boys and 28 pending girls who are eligible to get a mentor, but haven’t received one yet.

Children involved in the program range in ages from 5 to 18 and are in kindergarten to 12th grade. Mentors must be 18 or older.

The BCYMP was started by Orv Smidt in 1999. Smidt initially started the program to help kids who had come out of the judicial system, transitioning back into the school system.

“Now the program has broadened quite a bit to include the full spectrum of children and their needs,” Woodard said.

Currently, the mentoring program is open to all adults who just want to spend time with a child as a mentor.

“The mentor relationship is intended to empower youth to reach their full potential as contributing individuals in their communities,” Woodard said.

Woodard said the program uses The Search Institute model for youth development. She described it as an asset based model where internal and external assets are the focus for kids. An example of an internal asset is self-identity and examples of external assets include family, church, positive developmental experiences and community service.

“An asset is a “nutrient’ that is necessary for young people to grow a strong mind and character,” Woodard said. “When a mentor helps a child to increase internal or external assets, even just by a small amount, they reduce the likeliness of at risk behaviors in children.”

Jayme Brunner, a current mentor, describes the program as a one-hour weekly commitment where a child gets to be with their friend. It is something the child can look forward to.

“One benefit is being able to be stability in a kid’s life,” Brunner said.

For a mentor benefits include enhancing their life experiences and other awareness. It is also a resume builder.

Tricia Hofeldt, a sophomore animal science and pre-vet major, was a mentor last year. Hofeldt said she found learning to work with someone with a different personality can be a major benefit from the program. Hofeldt said she also benefitted from learning time management skills.

The community benefits from the program because it helps to reduce the number of kids involved in at risk behaviors. Woodard said research shows that these types of programs can dramatically impact kids staying in school and reduce dropout rates.

“There is a saying, “When the tide comes in, all the ships go up,'” Woodard said.

She said by helping one kid at a time, “all the ships go up.”

Mentors simply need two characteristics. They need to authentically care about the kids and understand the nature of the commitment. Other skills, such as listening and empowering can be learned through mentor training.

“It is really easy to join and all you have to do is be yourself,” current mentor and senior agriculture business student Isaac Buresch said.

Woodard said becoming a mentor isn’t hard. Those interested need to fill out an application which can be found on the BCYMP website. Applicants are interviewed, and then a background check is done and applicants are required to watch training DVDs.

After the hiring process is done the applicant has their first initial meeting. This meeting is with the child, their parent(s) and a counselor.

If someone is interested in the program, but isn’t sure about applying, Woodard said, they can check out the training DVD to just investigate the program. The first few minutes describe the mentoring role and commitment.

“While it is not possible to help everyone in society, everyone has the ability to help someone,” Buresch said.

Woodard said if interested in the BCYMP they can check out the website at, leave a voicemail for Woodard at 605-697-0444 or check out the training DVDs from Wagner hall, room 249. Applications can be found on the website and emailed to Woodard at [email protected].

#1.1782245:758804450.png:Mentor-3-Submitted.png:Brookings County Youth Mentoring Program provides many opportunities for community residents to connect with area youth. The mentor to youth ratio still remains unbalanced as many children within the community are on a waiting list to receive a mentor. :Submitted Photo