Sioux Falls Teammates program launches virtually due to the pandemic

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – January is National Mentoring Month; it’s also the month the Sioux Falls School District launched their newly adopted mentorship program.

Instead of having the mentors come to school, it’s taken a virtual twist due to the COVID-19 pandemic.​

It’s been an unusual year for Laura Wilder Elementary School 3rd Grader, Faney.

“The school year has been fine, and the masks don’t feel good,” Faney said.

Helping her navigate these feelings is her mentor. She’s connecting to her through her Chromebook through the TeamMates program.

“If I’m dealing with problems or something, I can tell her,” Faney said.

The Sioux Falls School District adopted the program last January. They launched it this month as a part of National Mentoring Month. Executive Director of the program Lora Hayes says the pandemic wasn’t going to stop them from finding a way to connect with students.

“When you look forward to seeing somebody and know somebody looks forward to seeing you it has a huge impact on your well-being and overall life,” Hayes said.

That same impact is felt on the other end of the screen by James Moldenhauer. He’s recently retired and is a first-time mentor. He says he and his kid formed a quick connection upon first meeting.

“It’s unique a little bit because I’m his grandfather’s age; so I’m like another grandpa who’s asking him questions,” Moldenhauer said.

The students get to interact with their mentors every Thursday for 20 minutes. Moldenhauer says it important for kids to have many role models in their lives.

“My coaches and my boy scout leaders and them had a lot of time to spend with me that was very constructive,” Moldenhauer said.

“You can make a new friend, and, also, they could tell you some advice if you’re doing something wrong and they’ll tell somebody,” Faney said.

“No matter what your academics look like, no matter what your home looks like, no matter anything, if you want somebody to talk to once a week who’s going to be there and care about you, this is the way to go,” Hayes said.

The TeamMates program is free for students of all ages.

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