Monday, September 1, 2014

Big Brothers Big Sisters' new mentoring program teaches life skills to local boys

E3, which stands for “educate, empower, and engage,” helped local boys in sixth grade gain confidence this year.

Posted on May 31, 2014 at 6:35 a.m.

A new mentoring experience started this year for Goshen boys in sixth grade.

Big Brothers Big Sisters launched the E3 program, which stands for “educate, empower, and engage,” in partnership with Goshen Schools and the Amigo Centre, an outdoor education center in Sturgis, Mich.

The goal is to connect boys just coming out of elementary school with male teachers they’ll have in middle school through camping, team building and working on projects.

Stephanie Patka, director of Big Brothers Big Sisters, said it’s good for the boys to meet their future teachers in a fun setting and could help them deal with the more rigorous curriculum of middle school. 

Plus, hanging out with the men who volunteer can help boost students’ confidence.

“This started when sixth grade principal Jeromy Sheets noticed that sixth through eighth grade is such a volatile time in a child’s development,” Patka said. “One difference between elementary and middle school is that there is more involvement in elementary kids’ lives and not as much support for middle school kids.”

The E3 boys met once a month over the past school year to do activities, and will go to a camp at the Amigo Centre this summer.

They are picking up valuable skills, but Patka said the program isn't just about learning to fix a tire on a bike.

“It’s about them feeling confident that they actually know how to do something,” she said. “They are also learning perseverance — to keep trying until something works.”

This mentoring program is just for boys, though Patka mentioned something similar for girls has been discussed.

The men volunteering for E3 must make a three-year commitment since the boys who are in sixth grade this year will continue with E3 through eighth grade.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is already looking for volunteers for next year’s program. To learn more, call 875-1039 or email

Follow reporter Lydia Sheaks on Twitter at @LydiaSheaks

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