Big Brothers Big Sisters of P.E.I. has received a $25,000 grant from Rogers Communications and $30,000 for three years from the Charlottetown Rotary Club to expand its teen mentorship program.

The grants were "quite a surprise," said Myron Yates, the organization's executive director, because they're so used to having to raise the funds themselves.

"For someone to call us up and just to offer this particular grant it was first of all an honour, secondly it was totally unexpected, and thirdly it was very timely in that we were able to go ahead and make some plans to expand our teen mentorship program," Yates said.

A 'win-win' for students

The organization's teen mentorship program started last year, pairing high school and junior high students with elementary school students in their community.

'It's a lot of work, but I tell you it's very rewarding work.' — Myron Yates

The students spend one hour per week together throughout the school year —becoming friends, playing games and forming a bond.

The biggest surprise for Yates was hearing the heartwarming feedback from the high schoolers.

"They had a greater appreciation for what they'd been given in their lives, or they were more involved in projects outside the school … or they learned kindness and enthusiasm or confidence," he said.

"We were getting a lot of feedback about the impact that being a mentor had on them too so we're really having a win-win situation."

128 mentors for 128 students

This year the program has partnered with Three Oaks Senior High, Kensington Intermediate, Colonel Gray High School, Montague Regional High School and Montague Intermediate, Bluefield High School, East Wiltshire intermediate and two other schools — expanding the program to 128 mentors for 128 elementary students.

mother and child holding hands stock photo

Mentors are benefitting from the program just as much as the young students, says Yates. (Rafal Olechowski/Shutterstock)

The additional funding allows them to fund staff to oversee the program.

"It's a lot of work, but I tell you it's very rewarding work," Yates said.

"The teen mentoring program is really about giving young people opportunities allowing them to flourish so they can grow up and obviously mentor others in that aspect as well," said James Rajotte, vice president for provincial municipal government affairs with Rogers Communications.

"Organizations like this have a tremendous impact in their communities — we as citizens and as corporations need to support organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters when they do these types of activities."