At 7 years old, Nicolaus was lacking a male role model in his life, someone outside his family that he could talk to and spend time with. When he was successfully matched through a United Way supported program with his “big brother” Alvin, he found that connection.
Positive role models are essential to the healthy development of children and youth. The most recent national studies show that mentored children are more likely to be confident in their ability to be successful at school, believe that school is fun and understand the importance of doing well academically. They are less likely to suffer peer pressure related anxiety, to engage in negative activities like bullying, fighting, lying, cheating, losing their temper or expressing anger. In addition, mentored children and youth had a 20% higher rate of high school graduation compared to the national average and were less likely to experiment with drugs or alcohol.
Through our All That Kids Can Be focus area, United Way supports and improves access to after-school, bullying prevention, and mentorship and leadership programs that provide children and youth with the opportunity to connect with positive role models.
Nicolaus’ mother Donna enrolled her son in the mentorship program eight years ago. As a single mother, she felt it was important for her son to have a male role model in his life outside of his family. “I wanted him to have new experiences and just get that male bonding,” says Donna, “I think it was important to have that for him.”
Shortly after enrolling in the program, Nicolaus was matched with Alvin, a local farmer.
“I’ve made a really good friend in Alvin,” says Nicolaus.
Through Alvin, Nicolaus has been exposed to many new experiences, including farm work, Blades’ games and flying lessons.
“Two times we went flying,” says Nicolas, his shy smile betraying his excitement. He now wants to get his pilot’s license.
“The opportunities that have come into Nicolaus’ life and the things he has learned because of Alvin have been priceless,” says Donna, noting Alvin has become a part of the family.
At United Way, we recognize the critical value of positive role models in the development of self-esteem, confidence and leadership skills for children and youth to excel and mature to be strong, successful young adults. Nicolaus, himself, has become a Youth Ambassador for the mentorship program. He has been coached in public speaking, and has appeared at the Saskatchewan Legislature and on TV, significant accomplishments for a 15-year old youth.
“I’m a proud mom. I brag that he’s doing this and that he’s getting the confidence to do it,” says Donna. “I definitely would encourage it for anyone.”
Through various funding, capacity building, knowledge sharing and research initiatives, United Way is investing in our future leaders. We support mentorship programs, and invest in agencies and initiatives that improve access to nutritious food, teach skills to overcome disabilities, encourage academic success, and enable the successful transition to adulthood. Through our work, we are helping kids be all they can be.