SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A lot of us had role models while growing up. Whether it was a star athlete, a teacher or coach or maybe even your own parent, role models can make a big difference in young lives; but so can mentoring.

The mayor of Sioux Falls is big into mentoring.

In fact, besides being a mentor himself, Paul TenHaken also started something called the Sioux 52 Mentoring Initiative.

Lauri Sohl works for the city, but she’s also a longtime mentor.

Just recently she signed up to mentor a young child through the TeamMates program within the Sioux Falls School District.

“I knew I wanted to offer something to somebody who might need me,” Sohl said. “One of the things I think we all tend to forget about is we think about ourselves and our own needs but we don’t always think about what someone else might need or that act of kindness.”

Once a week she meets with her mentee, 8-year-old Faney Muktar through the TeamMates program.

Lauri: Hi Faney.

Faney: Hi, it’s funny seeing you on a Monday isn’t it?

Faney: Yeah.

Faney didn’t need a mentor, she just wanted one. But because of COVID and school district restrictions, she has to mentor Faney via zoom.

Lauri: How was your weekend?

Faney: Good.

Lauri: What did you do?

Faney: I mainly played outside most of the day.

Lauri: It was super nice on Saturday wasn’t it?

Faney: Yeah.

Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken says mentoring in our community truly makes a difference and changes lives for the better.

“One of the best ways to make an impact in your community is just a one on one relationship with someone, everybody can benefit from a mentor,” TenHaken said.

That’s why he started the Sioux 52 Initiative which is designed to get more people involved in mentoring.

Even the mayor acts as a mentor; informally.

“I mentor several guys, who I know, who are trying to start businesses, so I just make myself available to them, I’ve helped some of them get jobs, because I want to keep them here I want to keep them in Sioux Falls, so where you make change is in relationships,” TenHaken said.

Right now there’s a huge demand for mentors; especially for younger children.

“The school district alone has identified, the last count I heard was close to a thousand kids in the school district, whether it be counselors or teachers or educators who have identified these kids as needing a mentor in their life,” TenHaken said.

The mentors and their mentees can form solid relationships built on communication and trust. Mayor TenHaken says a lot of teenagers also need a role model in their lives.

“They have access to things where they could be making some very bad decisions at that stage in their life that could follow them for the rest of their life,” TenHaken said.

The TeamMates program, which was started in 1991 by Tom Osborn, former football coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, sees a higher graduation rate of seniors, who’ve had mentors in their lives.

Of course covid put a strain on in person mentoring, but TenHaken is hoping with more people getting vaccinated that’ll soon change.

“The need for mentors increased dramatically last year, but the ability to mentor in person face to face and events decreased, so now with that year behind us there’s kind of a renewed effort to put more energy behind Sioux 52 once again,” TenHaken said.

“When Faney and I meet it’s usually, it’s all up to Faney what we do sometimes we have activities that TeamMates might bring to us but I sometimes have activities ready just in case,” Sohl said.

The mayor says anyone can be a mentor.

“The only thing mentoring requires is an open heart, the ability to listen and the giving of your time, everybody has qualifications to be a mentor,” TenHaken said.

“So if you enjoy interacting with young adults and children this is an ideal way to do it and it’s a great way to give back in an environment that you don’t have with your family members and others in your life, it’s such a neat surprise,” Sohl said.

If you’d like to sign up to be a mentor under the Sioux 52 Initiative or TeamMates.