More than five years ago, reading to a third grade girl was part of Kerri DeGraff's role as a mentor.
"It's more about being there," DeGraff said. "Just by being there, you're making a difference."
DeGraff has gone from telling stories to giving advice to that same student, now in the eighth grade.
"Even myself, how difficult it is to be a female in middle school. And so it's been good for me to be able to talk with her through some of those similar emotions I may have experienced," DeGraff said.
DeGraff is just one mentor in Lutheran Social Services South Dakota's mentorship program. For a just an hour a week, DeGraff meets with her student. Program Director Michelle Madsen points out it does not take a lot of time to make a big impact. There are currently 1,100 mentors in this program, and the goal is to expand that to 1,600 within the next three years. That is why LSS will announce next week, an initiative to add 500 new mentors.
LSS teams up with several school districts, including those in Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties. From kindergarten to seniors in high school, there is a long list of students who need a little extra support in their lives. 69-percent of Lutheran Social Services mentors are women, so there is a big need for men to sign up.
"There are a lot of young boys in the community who are lacking a male role model," Madsen said.
Madsen said there is no need for applicants to be intimidated.
"They don't have to prepare anything, they don't need to teach or counsel the students. They're just really there to be their friend," Madsen said.
Which is why DeGraff does not view her role as just a mentor anymore.
"Getting in this situation, it's just like sitting with a good friend," DeGraff said.
All applicants undergo background checks, to make sure they are fit to be a mentor. To find out how to sign up, just go to this website.