A group of Flandreau Public School students will have mentors this school year through a program backed by a former educator.
Lutheran Social Services’ Everyday Heroes Mentoring Program will be offered to Flandreau’s fifth and sixth grade students thanks to $5,000 in grant money donated by Elizabetta Giomo-James, who worked as a Flandreau’s Title VI coordinator for Native American Education, through last spring. Giomo-James, who now is a learning specialist with Technology and Innovation in Education based in Rapid City, was allotted the grant last year when she was chosen to be a part of the Change Network Program.
The Change Network, which she was named to in December, is a year-long learning and networking experience funded by the Bush Foundation. Emily Firman Pieper of Flandreau also was chosen for the program.
Giomo-James said she chose the mentoring program to receive the grant money because of the impact a mentoring relationship had on her in the past.
“With my experience as an immigrant and with my education in social work, I truly understand how we are wired for human connection, and how that helps us thrive. I was never part of a mentoring program, but I have grown immensely in all aspects of my life thanks to key, empowering relationships,” she said.
The program will match trained volunteers one-to-one with students who they will meet with for 30 minutes a week. Students will be referred to the program by the school counselor.
Mentors and the students will spend their time eating lunch, talking, playing games and doing other relationship-building activities. The pairs also will set and meet goals together.
The Flandreau School District has added additional counseling staff this past year as teachers, counselors and principals have reported more behavioral needs in classrooms.
Working in the school system showed Giomo-James the need for mentors, she said.
“I had many conversations with teachers in the past three years I’ve worked at Flandreau Public School, and the need for a mentoring program was a recurring theme,” she said. “It is my hope that students will benefit from an additional support in their lives as they continue to grow while engaging in school and other activities and as they explore their identities and relationships with peers and others.”
Lutheran Social Services started the mentoring program in 2001 in collaboration with the Sioux Empire United Way. It has expanded beyond Sioux Falls schools to several communities.
To volunteer as a mentor in Flandreau, sign up at https://www.lsssd.org/what-we-do/child-adolescent-services/mentoring/application.html. Mentors also must provide a release for a criminal background check.