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When 4th grade Horizons teacher Shara Olson saw a television show about mentors for boys, a light bulb went off. “I thought, why not girls?” She discussed the idea with her husband, Brady Olson, who teaches Advanced Placement Government at North Thurston High School, and a mentoring program of their own was born.
Shara Olson put out applications to girls at Horizons and was overwhelmed by the response of more than 80 applicants. Names were then drawn at random and 20 girls were matched with interested high school students from Brady Olson’s classes. The group met monthly starting in October. “The mentors were asked to create a lesson to be taught to the group regarding a variety of things, from reading to crafts to music,” Brady said. The mentors were also asked to send a letter to their “sis” between visits to keep up communication between visits. “The response has been amazing!”
The group meets together and in pairs. On one spring day, they were found playing a competitive game of dodge ball on the lawn in front of Horizons. Afterwards, laughing and tired, they went inside for lemon cookies and lemonade (provided by parent volunteers) before breaking off into pairs or smaller groups to do a craft activity or game.
“It’s a good chance for girls to get to know older girls,” said 5th grader Maile Brown, who enjoys hanging out with her mentor, Sonie Litchfield. “We made mud pies with graham crackers…that was fun.”
The matches benefit the older girls as well. “I think a lot of us don’t get the chance to be around younger kids and take on a role model position to be a good mentor and set a good example,” said Katy Gibbons while painting flower pots with her Jaidyn Dellecese, a vivacious first grader, as they painted flower pots outside. “Plus we don’t get to do a lot of arts and crafts in high school!”
The program has been so successful and received by both sides that Shara hopes to expand the program to Timberline High School next year so they can match more girls. “I have seen the comfort level grow tremendously between the younger and older girls…it’s been fun to watch.”