MENtoring Monday ties Huron community members, students together

HURON, S.D. A school in Huron is teaming up with the United Way Heartland Region to bring in some special volunteers. It's all part of the "MENtors - Real Men Read" program started at Washington Elementary about 1.5 years ago.

It's a program only found inside the classrooms at Washington 4-5 Center - positive male role models from the Huron community taking 20 minutes out of their Monday to read to students.

"After we read the book, it's just fun to dig into their thoughts on things," American Bank & Trust Commercial Lender Ben Nelson said.

The program started back in September 2016 after United Way Heartland Region Executive Director Rhonda Kludt found the idea from another school in the United States. Kludt went to Washington 4-5 Center Principal Beth Foss to see if it's something she wanted to try at her school.

"After a year, the men that were doing it went to the community and said this is something very rewarding for them and the kids and they started getting more men," Foss said. "Now, we have 17 that come once a month."

It's a great time for the guys, who range from bankers to lawyers to farmers around the Huron area.

"You walk into a room and everybody's really excited to see you and it's something that's been a lot of fun," American Bank & Trust Credit Analyst Levi Kary said. "It doesn't take a lot of time. You just feel so great walking out of the building when you're done."

The students also enjoy the time to get to know the male adults in their community and, of course, getting a little break from school work.

"There were a couple of times when we didn't have a mentor for a class and they'd come to me and say, 'Mrs. Foss, when am I going to get a mentor?" Foss said. "The men always seem to bring gifts for the kids that they really appreciate."

It's a program that helps to bring the Huron community just a little bit closer together.

"It's a two-way street: showing community support for us and for our kids to learn [that] those jobs are really important," Foss said.

"I would encourage all of our dads, men, grandpas, single men to give a little bit of their time because it's very rewarding," Huron Mayor Paul Aylward said.

If you're interested in joining in on MENtoring Monday, you can contact Beth Foss at Washington 4-5 Center by calling (605) 353-7895 or Rhonda Kludt with the United Way Heartland Region at (605) 352-3537. They are full for the moment Foss wants to get a waiting list started just in case someone has to drop out.