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Someone You Should Know: Giving kids a mentor

Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 6:20 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A Sioux Falls woman has a passion for helping kids reach their full potential and has started a new mentoring program in the Sioux Falls School District.

“We just believe that relationships really are the foundation of changing our future.”

Lora Hayes says the data shows that mentoring can positively impact a child’s life.

“What we see is that their hope shoots way up. What we also see is high school graduation rates shoot up. We are in the upper 90s which is way above the national average. Maybe because of that relationship, they decided not to go down the wrong path.”

The TeamMates mentoring program has been around for a while in the Midwest, but it’s new to the Sioux Falls School District.

Lora is the executive director of the Sioux Falls chapter.

“It’s all about one-on-one mentoring. And it’s really getting that healthy adult in a kid’s life. Because what we know is when you have a healthy adult in a student’s life who doesn’t have to be there, but wants to be there, the impact that has on the student’s trajectory in life and graduation rates, and all those types of things, skyrockets.”

She had to adapt this program to the pandemic, launching it virtually in January of this year.

“I’m actually in the classroom, monitoring, making sure that everything happens, so if somebody has problems with technology, I can make sure I’m working with both to make sure they’re meeting at the same time.”

It’s an environment that Lora is used to.

“My passion for kids and making a difference and impact in the life of kids is huge. I started out as an elementary education teacher.”

Lora does a lot on her own, but she says she also has a great support system.

“Behind every great program, there are tons of people doing a ton of work. And at this point, we’re just bringing the program on. So, I am the executive director and everyone else is volunteers. I work between the community, Sioux Falls School District, superintendent’s office, and then also the schools. So my job is figuring out how can TeamMates make the biggest impact in the Sioux Falls School District by collaborating with all those people. So right now I am a one-woman show because I’m the only paid person on the TeamMates Sioux Falls staff, but I could not do it without all the volunteers we have, our tremendous board.”

For this first year, the program was only offered to third graders. As of April, when we did this interview, nearly 80 third graders in the Sioux Falls School District each had a TeamMates mentor, but Lora has her sights set on an even bigger goal.

“There are 25,000 students in the district. So, I would love to have 25,000 mentors. I would love every kid who comes through this program to be able to find somebody who cares about them and can speak life into them.”

In the fall, Lora says the program will offer both a virtual and in-person format.

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