BCSD’s one-on-one mentoring program enters eighth year.

Each Wednesday afternoon, elementary students rush into the cafeteria of Burlington High School, eager to spend an hour with their mentors.

Six years ago, Kiera Wagler, now 17 and a junior at BHS, was among the elementary mentees enrolled in Club M, the Burlington Community School District’s one-on-one mentoring program that matches K-4th grade students with high schoolers based on interests and personalities.

“It was just nice to have someone who was older than me but not an adult that I was able to hang out with,” Wagler recalled.

It was something she looked forward to each week, but between extracurricular activities, academic responsibilities and after-school jobs, high schoolers are busy, and Wagler estimates she had three or four mentors in a single year.

“I went through mentor after mentor,” she said. “I would have a mentor who would show up for a while and then stop showing up, so I never had one solid mentor through a whole year, and I wanted to be able to be there for someone through a whole year.”

That’s why Wagler rejoined Club M her freshman year, this time as a mentor.

“I wanted to be able to be that person that I wanted to have when I was that child,” Wagler said. “I wanted to be a staple of their life that’s there weekly and that they can trust.”

She’s become just that for Kylie Curry, 9, a fourth-grader at Grimes Elementary School, who is in her second year as Wagler’s mentee.

“She’s nice and she’s funny, and she likes playing the things that I do,” Curry said. “Sometimes she complains about playing tag, but she’ll get over it.”

Despite having a part-time job and homework, Wagler still makes it a priority to spend a portion of her Wednesday afternoon in the high school cafeteria or in the courtyard, where Curry will talk her into playing a game of tag.

“I really like my mentee, so it’s really easy to take time out of my week when I have something to look forward to,” Wagler said.

Next year, Wagler will have a new mentee as Curry is in her final year of elementary school, but she hopes to have a positive impact on whomever her next match may be.

“It’ll be new and different, but I’m hoping I can somehow make an impact on their life in the little time I’ll have with them,” Wagler said.

Wagler is one of seven mentees-turned-mentors who were presented with a Club M mug and picture frame this past month in recognition of their commitment to the program — and their young peers.

That’s not to say that Club M’s other mentors are without dedication.

About 52 high school mentors show up for the program each week in hopes of having a profoundly positive impact on the lives of their respective mentees.

“I just really like working with kids, and it’s really nice to be such an important person in their life and be someone they look up to,” 15-year-old freshman Shannon Skeens said while molding Play-Doh into figures alongside two of her fellow mentors and their mentees.

“I like that I get to be an inspiration to younger kids,” said 14-year-old freshman Isha Salokhe.

Learn more about Club M

About Club M

Club M meets from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. each Wednesday during the school year, save for days when there is no school.

The program is in its eighth year at BCSD.

That’s 250 hours of peer mentoring, with more than 150 students served each year.

This past summer, the program was re-certified for an additional three years through the Iowa Mentoring Partnership based on the National Quality Mentoring System’s best practice standards.

“Everything we do goes back to that vision of having a profoundly positive impact on adult quality of life, and having Club M as part of that experience in our schools definitely goes toward that,” Cassie Gerst, BCSD Supervisor of Grants and Community Outreach, told the Burlington School Board during its first meeting in January, which is National Mentoring Month.

Club M is aimed at improving self regulation and executive functioning skills, the mental processes that enable planning, focusing attention, memory and multitasking. It also helps build social skills.

Surveys completed by Club M mentees at the beginning and end of the year indicate an increase in confidence regarding their ability to graduate high school and college.

Gerst said the program also has enabled the formation of friendships between students from different schools who otherwise may not have met until at least fifth grade.

The program also has a positive impact on mentors, with 92% of mentors either agreeing or strongly agreeing that Club M helps them to be better role models and 68% indicating that Club M helped them think about their own future.

Mask group

Read the latest issue of The Burlington Bark

The Burlington Bark is our district newsletter.