After his son-in-law was deployed in the Navy, Cambridge resident Leo Breunig took on a larger role in his grandchildren’s lives.

“My son-in-law said ‘I want my kids to have an adult male father figure in their life’... So I know how that is important for (kids) to have that,” Breunig said.

That’s why he applied to become a mentor with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Cambridge has launched a local chapter, and Breunig was one of the first to volunteer, at a meeting Dec. 5.

The Cambridge School District is expanding its mentorship opportunities recently, district social worker Kristin Gowan said. in an interview in November. After having a positive experience with BBBS herself, Gowan brought it to Cambridge.

“I recognize that there’s a need for mentoring in our community. A lot of kids would really benefit from having another grown-up that shows up for them,” Gowan said in an interview.

Mentoring is “just meant to be another level of support and attention to kids,” Gowan continued. “It’s good for all kids and all communities.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters is currently seeking more volunteers like Breunig to join the effort.

“We’re looking at how we can make that a broader community partnership and provide more opportunities for students,” said student services director Krista Jones.

Big Brothers Big Sisters has operated for 115 years nationally, said Pam Carper, the program’s Executive Director in south central Wisconsin.

The group matches a child age 6-18 with an adult mentor over 18. The pair meet about 4-8 hours a month, for about a year.“We want them to build relationships, and work through relationships,” Carper said.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is an “opportunity to have that one special person in their life, someone they can talk tothey can explore different opportunities, different interests, they can reach out to and just share a Saturday afternoon or an hour after school,” Carper said.

Big Brothers Big Sisters has two types of mentorship people in Cambridge can volunteer for. One is community-based, where the pair does activities together outside of school like visiting the library, cooking or taking a walk.

The group also has a lunch buddies program, where the mentor visits a child at school during lunch once a week. Mentors undergo an application process with a background check, reference check and an interview. Carper said the process is extensive, to protect students.

The next step for Cambridge is finding volunteers, and getting them through the application process.

Breunig shared several experiences with mentorship, in his family and the military. He also visits the Cambridge Elementary School cafeteria every Friday to eat lunch with his granddaughter.

“You would be an excellent mentor, because you understand the value,” said Carper.Cambridge has one successful mentoring program already, that began last year. Cambridge High School students spend their study halls with Cambridge Elementary School students. The program has nine high school mentors and more than 40 elementary mentees.For more information on getting involved, contact Kristin Gowan at kgowan@cambridge.k12.wi.us.

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