Originally published with Saltwire News. 

Judy & Dax: an in-school mentoring success story

For more than 40 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colchester has been enabling life-changing mentoring relationships to ignite potential of young people in Colchester and East Hants communities. Here’s one story of how the mentor-mentee relationship can be mutually beneficial. Learn more about BBBS Colchester programs and initiatives at bbbscolchester.ca.

Judy Grant’s motivations to volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colchester were simple: once she retired, she had some free time on her hands, and she had only heard good things about the in-school mentoring program.

“I was inspired by my brother-in-law, who has been volunteering in schools since he retired years ago as a math professor,” Judy says. “His stories of making long-lasting connections with kids were truly inspiring.”

The BBBS Colchester in-school mentoring program started in 1997 and has since grown to nine schools throughout Colchester, with a goal of expanding into East Hants. This program matches an adult volunteer with a child, who spend one hour a week together at the child’s school, during school hours, for the duration of the school year.

Judy and her in-school mentee, Dax, are celebrating their one-year ‘matchiversary’ March 31.

Shortly after Judy and Dax were matched, COVID-19 restrictions left Judy unable to visit Dax at school. But that didn’t stop them from getting to know one another.

BBBS Colchester mentoring co-ordinator Mary Samson suggested they write to one another. Mary would receive both Dax and Judy’s emails and share them with the pair – something Dax looked forward to weekly.

“I told Judy about my plants that I planted with my mom,” Dax says. “Then Judy sent me pictures of a cool snow snail she made when I couldn’t see her this year.

“I like sending Judy messages when I can’t see her. I really like her.”

The in-school mentoring program matches the volunteer and child based on common interests, personality traits and location. The program isn’t academic-based. The child and mentor simply spend time doing things together they enjoy.

“We’ve planted seeds, read books, picked up litter around the school and built tiny houses in the schoolyard for salamanders,” Judy says. “We almost always go outside, to wander and look at the natural world around the schoolyard. We don’t always do the things I have planned, but Dax and I work together to decide how we’ll spend the time.”

Dax’s mother Megan shared that being a part of the in-school mentoring program has been great for her son. He looks forward to seeing Judy and their time together is always positive.

“Dax gets super excited on the days he knows Judy is supposed to be coming,” Megan says. “He loves coming home and telling me all about what they did together or what cool snacks she brought.”

Judy described Dax as someone who is easy to enjoy.

“He’s energetic, friendly and kind,” Judy says. “He loves to get outside, like I do, and is curious about the world around him. His greatest strength is the way he interacts with others. He is very demonstrative and responsive to his friends.”

There are currently more than 80 children waiting to be matched throughout Colchester and East Hants who would benefit from a positive role model in their lives. For just one hour a week, with the support of BBBS and school staff, you can make a difference in a child’s life.

Judy would recommend this volunteer opportunity to anyone with some time to spare.

“It only requires an hour a week with some prep time and can make a difference in a child’s life,” said Grant. “The Big Brothers Big Sisters organization is very supportive and provides all the communication with the family and school. They make it easy to enjoy.”