SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – In a few weeks students will be heading back to the classroom. After a tough school year because of the pandemic, an organization is encouraging people to volunteer to be mentors.

As we approach the beginning of the school year, soon classrooms will be once again filled with students. The director of mentoring at Lutheran Social Services says this year there is a big need for mentors.

“Last year due to the pandemic, mentors were not able to visit kids in schools, so because of that we weren’t able to start new mentors, so there’s a whole group of students that could have been matched last year that weren’t able to get in touch with a mentor, so the need is greater this year than it ever has been,” director of mentoring at LSS, Michelle Madsen said.

Madsen says right now they have about 1,000 people volunteering as mentors and they’re looking for about 300 more.

“Research is showing us that kids are maybe not as resilient bouncing back after the pandemic but a mentor would definitely be a tool that would help a kid return to normal and continue to thrive in school,” Madsen said.

Mike Knold has been volunteering as a mentor for about 20 years.

“I’m a big advocate for the mentoring program here at LSS, it’s very rewarding for yourself, I sometimes find that I get much more out of it on a weekly basis then maybe the student does, but I always encourage people I work with, talk to, family, friends to do it,” Knold said.

He says he meets with his mentee every week for about an hour, something that can have a lasting impact for both involved.

“You don’t always see it immediately but I know down the road that the interactions we have, the conversation we have are a big impact on that student and I think it’s important to get out and help our youth,” Knold said.

Madsen says they partner with over 80 schools in Lincoln and Minnehaha County as well as in Flandreau. If you’re interested in signing up, just click here.