Building Big Friendships by Volunteering at School

Learn all about volunteering and mentoring at a local elementary school in Greater Vancouver with our In-School Mentor Program.

Meet this year’s Big of the Year for the In-School Mentoring program, Yvette!

school volunteering
Yvette has volunteered in the Teen Mentoring and the In-School Mentoring programs.

She’s been forging friendships with elementary students as an In-School Mentor for more than three years. But that’s not all!

Where it all began

Before that, in high school, she was a part of our Teen Mentoring program where she participated for another three years building a big friendship with her Little Buddies.

In both the In-School Mentoring and Teen Mentoring programs a volunteer meets with an elementary school student for one hour per week, over the course of the school year, and spends time creating a fun and positive friendship with a child.

“I got really attached to it and I had a really good experience,” Yvette said about the teen program.

As she graduated from high school and thus the Teen Mentoring program, Yvette went on to study at university. It wasn’t long after finishing post-secondary that she felt to pull toward making an impact for youth once again.

“After I obtained by degree, I really felt the urge to give back. I know it sounds like a ‘scam’ because I always hear volunteers say ‘I want to give back to the community,’ but what does that that really mean? Do you really feel that way? … but I did feel that way and the reason why is I felt like that is I had a lot of resources and a lot of help for me to achieve my academic success. When I graduated I wanted to find a way to be useful and contribute.”

Now in the In-School Mentoring program, Yvette’s been matched with her Little Buddy, Aizelle, for the past two school years.

Yvette won the 2023 Big of the Year award for the In-School Mentoring program.

In the matching process, our Mentoring Coordinators intentionally pair each Little and Big Buddy based on their personality and interests to get the most impact out of each mentoring relationship.

Getting started

“It’s very personal,” Yvette explained. “I found that the Little Buddies that they paired up with me tended to be a little bit more introverted, which is kind of similar to me.”

For some volunteers, they prefer to meet and build friendships with lots of different children and are matched with a new Mentee each year. However, Yvette prefers to really get to know her Little.

“I really like to stay with the same Little Buddy and build that friendship and see the development. So, I really like the long-term friendship idea,” she said. “I get a lot of fulfilment from the experience.”

Over the years, Yvette has gained a lot of experience in building friendships, especially with children who tend to be more shy.

“I remember when I was in high school it took me way more time to warm up to my Little. I wasn’t sure what was the proper way to interact with them and make them comfortable,” she said.

Since then, she’s grown more confident and has developed methods to help get her Mentees out of their shell.

“As I have more experience, now that I’m an adult in the In-School program, I’ve found a more natural way to interact with them. You just have to be very genuine with your Little and then tell them about your day just like how you would talk about it with your friends. And then, eventually, they can feel that energy and they will open up and be more comfortable with me.”

Mentoring In-School

Being a mentor can sound like an intimidating role and it’s one that Yvette has taken seriously, but isn’t as daunting of responsibility as you may initially think.

“When you put yourself under the title of Mentor, you feel like you need to be the best role-model for them and do the most proper things in front of them,” she said. “Now that I’ve given it a little bit more thought I think the influence is really passive … it’s the things you say, your opinions, and the way you present yourself in front of the kids.”

school volunteering
Yvette says being a volunteer and mentor sounds more intimidating than it really is.

Though being a Mentor comes with a sense of responsibility, it can also be a “pretty down-to-earth and easy-going” experience, Yvette said.

When she did have doubts though, she could always rely on her Mentoring Coordinator and the teachers involved in the program. They taught her that each child involved in the program wants to be there with you and wants to have someone who can be consistent and present.

“Sometimes you don’t need to do much. Just being there for them and showing up is already making a big impact,” Yvette said. “You committing to the program and seeing them every week is a big deal.”


Want to make an impact at a school near you? Then head to our Volunteer Inquiry page to learn more. 

Ready to apply now? Great! Get started at our Volunteer Application page.

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