The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at the University of Delaware in Wilmington offers its members the opportunity to mentor a child. In partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware, the OLLI mentoring program aims to provide local children with a positive role model during their formative years.
After undergoing a thorough background clearance and training in how to be a mentor, each member is paired with a child ranging in age from kindergarten through fifth grade from Shortlidge or Warner Elementary Schools. Mentors meet with their mentees for one hour a week and have the opportunity to draw, play games and eat lunch with them.
“The mentor training that is provided at OLLI teaches members how to build a trusting relationship with their mentee,” says Elliott Ketay, instructor in the mentoring program. “The kids then start looking to the mentor for guidance as they would to a grandparent. The mentors have a lot of life experience through work and raising families, so they are a natural fit for the kids.”
In addition to assisting with conducting background checks, Big Brothers Big Sisters provides supervision at the schools as well as a room stocked with books, toys and games for mentors to use with their mentee. Mentors also participate in training classes from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware, presentations by speakers from different social agencies and group discussions about their mentoring experiences.
Beginning this fall, the mentoring program will be offered as part of OLLI’s new Community Service category. The community service programs are not considered courses, so OLLI members can be involved in the mentoring program without it counting toward their five-class limits.
Due to the success of the mentoring program, OLLI Wilmington also has added a tutoring program to its Community Service category. In partnership with Literacy Delaware, OLLI members who sign up for the tutoring program will provide instruction to an adult in reading, writing and speaking English. Many of the adults involved in the literacy program are parents of the students in the mentoring program, allowing both programs to work together to provide families with positive guidance.