UWNEMN in ‘serious need’ of mentors

UWNEMN’s Lunch Buddies mentoring program is set to launch in five schools across the Iron Range this fall.

It’s an exciting expansion for UWNEMN.

“We’ve been told repeatedly by school staff that this program is filling such an important need, and we had an absolutely incredible response from students and mentors alike with our pilots – but they were cut short because of the pandemic,” said UWNEMN Executive Director Erin Shay. “This opportunity to be in more schools than ever for an entire school year is huge.”

The excitement comes with some hesitation, though; with weeks to go until the desired start date, there are not yet enough mentors to place in every community.

UWNEMN Education and Childhood Programs Specialist Sarah Gardeski said the Lunch Buddies program is in “serious need” of mentors for children in Babbitt, Cherry, Chisholm, Keewatin, and Mt. Iron.

“Our communities have shown us time and time again they are willing to step up to care for our local children,” Gardeski said. “I’m hopeful they will come through again in time for the Lunch Buddies program to start on time. The students are so excited to meet their mentors!”

UWNEMN’s Lunch Buddies pairs grade school students with a local adult, based on shared interests and other factors, to share a lunch period together once a week. Students are referred by school staff and given permission to participate by parents.

Mentoring will take place the following dates and locations:

  • Cherry School – Tuesdays
  • Keewatin Elementary – Tuesdays
  • Northeast Range (Babbitt) – Thursdays
  • Merritt Elementary (Mt. Iron) – Wednesdays
  • Vaughan Steffensrud Elementary (Chisholm) - Mondays

Adults interested in becoming mentors are able to select their volunteer location and will be screened through an application, interview, and background check. All Lunch Buddies mentors will also receive training prior to mentoring.

UWNEMN may add other schools to the program throughout the school year depending on the interest – from schools and volunteers.  

 “It’s especially important that we unite to meet this need for our children right now,” Shay said. “We know there were many children on the cusp of being ‘at-risk’ prior to the pandemic that are now fully at-risk of serious mental and physical health issues in the future.

This is an opportunity for us to rise to the occasion on behalf of the next generation of Iron Rangers.”

To learn more or apply, click here.