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Big Brothers Big Sisters needs 'Lunch Buddies'

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Tonya Huenink (left) volunteers as a mentor at the Le Mars Community Middle School by having lunch during the school year with a student, Tresa. Huenink is a volunteer with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Adults who are interested in serving as role models for elementary or middle school students are being recruited for the 2012-2013 school year.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Siouxland will expand a program which brings together students at Le Mars schools with adult volunteer mentors.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Siouxland, in Sioux City, offered the "Lunch Buddies" program in Le Mars for the first time during the 2011-2012 school year.

Teresa Magnussen, development director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Siouxland, said the lunch-time program will be expanded.

She is recruiting 10-12 adults who'd be willing to meet once a week for lunch with selected students as a mentor or "Big Brother or Big Sister."

"We're going to grow it from 25 to hopefully 35-37," Magnussen said.

The impact of the first year of the program is the reason for the plans to expand "Lunch Buddies," she said.

"The teachers saw the success and the change in the students throughout the school year and said 'we want to grow this,'" Magnussen explained.

Students in second through eighth grade at Clark Elementary and Le Mars Community Middle School are identified for the program by teachers and other school staff.

The goal of the program is helping the students be successful, Magnussen said.

"We just want the child to achieve to their highest potential, whatever that may be, and turn into productive citizens," she said.

Magnussen will recruit more adults like Tonya Huenink, the dietician at Hy-Vee in Le Mars, who went to the middle school for lunch on Fridays with a sixth grader, Tresa.

Huenink is already signed up meet with Tresa for the 2012-2013 school year.

As a Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor, Huenink visited with Tresa about school and teen experiences.

"I always asked her 'did you get your homework done? Is there something I can help you with?' and a lot of time she knew how to do her homework, she just needed a little affirmation," the Big Sister said.

Huenink said there can also be "drama" between friends at middle school.

"I tried to make sure I knew what was going on with that and to give her some good advice about how to handle those types of things," she said.

Huenink said she would encourage other people to volunteer as a Big Brother or a Big Sister.

Magnussen is recruiting adults to assure there are enough "Lunch Buddies" volunteers for students at Clark Elementary and at the middle school.

The need for adults to be matched with students may also grow with service to another group of students.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Siouxland representatives will meet with the Gehlen Catholic Board of Education Thursday to explore options for Gehlen students.

The school's students are not currently part of the mentoring program in Le Mars.

Magnussen encourages adults to consider one of two mentoring programs now available in Le Mars.

Adults have the option of being a school-based or community-based Big Brother or Big Sister, she said.

"After they complete their year with the school-based program, if everything was successful, we're going to offer to roll those Bigs into community-based Bigs," Magnussen said.

"About 10 or so ("Lunch Buddies") are now doing community-based mentoring where they see the Littles over the summer and continue on doing out activities outside of school as well," Magnussen said.

Activities for community-based mentoring could include going to a ball game, fishing, golfing, going for a walk, shopping, or other activities that foster a connection with a positive role model for the young people, she said.

Community-based mentors are encouraged to volunteer four hours a month.

Separate interviews with the students and adults help create successful matches for the mentoring program, Magnussen said.

"We take our time and make good matches with interest levels and things like that," she said.

For those who aren't interested in volunteering as a Big Brother or Big Sister, Magnussen said volunteers are also needed for the Tour of Homes in Sioux City to be hosted by the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program as a fundraiser.

She estimates the tour effort will require more than 200 volunteers.

People may contact Magnussen by calling 712-239-9890 or 712-540-0343 or by emailing tmagnussen@bigbrothersbigsisters.com, she said.

Information is also available from the Big Brothers Big Sisters website www.bigbrothersbigsisters.com.

Donations are also accepted for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Information about contributing to the non-profit group is also available from Magnussen.

School-based Big Brothers Big Sisters

* Requires a background check, two references and interview with Big Brothers Big Sisters staff

* Participate ideally once a week at lunch-time with student at school, serving as a mentor

Community-based Big Brothers Big Sisters

* Must have completed one year in school-based Big Brothers Big Sisters program

* Spend four hours a month with Little Brother or Little Sister

* Complete an additional background check and have a home assessment to assure safety of young person

* More in-depth interview

* Have a driver's license

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