Developing a new bond as a mentor

Published 9:46 am Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Cydney Pathammavong, left, often meets her mentor Staci Wangen in her classroom at Halverson Elementary School. - Kelly Wassenberg/Albert Lea Tribune

Cydney Pathammavong, left, often meets her mentor Staci Wangen in her classroom at Halverson Elementary School. – Kelly Wassenberg/Albert Lea Tribune

Staci Wangen met Cydney Pathammavong when she was in her third-grade class at Halverson Elementary School two years ago.

Even back then, Wangen said they had a special bond. It’s a bond they’ve been able to grow as their relationship has evolved from teacher and student, to mentor and mentee through the STARS mentorship program.

For Wangen, the decision to become a part of the mentorship program was an easy choice to make.

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“Being a teacher, I just wanted to do something else,” she said.

As a result, she spoke with Halverson Elementary’s social worker Katie Nielsen about the mentorship program, and it grew from there.

“Because I already knew Cydney, I knew that the two of us would make a good pair,” Wangen said.

Over the summer the pair enjoyed going on walks, out to lunch and participating in activities hosted by the mentorship program, such as canoeing and kayaking.

In recent months it has been easier for the pair to spend time with one another. With Pathammavong’s classroom being right across the hall from Wangen’s they see each other every day. Sometimes it’s only for a few minutes, but sometimes a few minutes is all it takes to turn someone’s day around.

At other times, Wangen’s classroom serves as a place for them to meet up after school. She might help Pathammavong  do her homework before leaving the school to do something else.

“For Christmas we made ornaments and it was really fun,” Pathammavong  said. “We had glitter everywhere.”

Pathammavong  enjoys the quiet one-on-one time, which she describes as quite different from her home life. Filled with love, her home is also filled with a lot of people. She lives with her foster parents Mark and Linda Crom and their daughter Christy, 15, as well as three of her own siblings, Caitie, 15; Colby, 13; and Corbin, 8.

“With all the kids that are at my house it’s kind of hard to talk to Linda because they’re always there,” she said speaking of her siblings and a continuous stream of visitors who come to the house.

“We get to talk a lot. I like that and I just kind of get to get away from my brothers and sisters,” Pathammavong  said of her time with Wangen.

The pair often discuss homework, friendships and life in general. Pathammavong  knows she can confide in Wangen.

“Anything she tells me, it’s just between her and I,” Wangen said of their friendship.

Stars for Kids volunteer coordinator Mary Jo Volkman is always looking for new mentors to develop friendships with other children waiting to be paired with their own mentor. She is there to help ease mentors into their new role when a bond hasn’t already been established between mentor and mentee. It’s a time commitment, but giving of yourself is sometimes the greatest gift you can give.

Mentoring has proven to be an effective strategy for preventing youth from engaging in risky behaviors, such as skipping school and using drugs. It increases self-esteem and self-confidence.

To learn more about how to be a mentor, contact Volkman at 507-383-5272 or email her at