Volunteer finds a mentoring passion

Scott Gehlert is seen on the playground at South Elementary School, surrounded by students happy to see him at school.

Scott Gehlert is seen on the playground at South Elementary School, surrounded by students happy to see him at school.

Scott Gehlert never planned on spending on his days connecting children with potential mentors.

But as mentoring coordinator with Big Brothers Big Sisters, that is just what he does.

“It was really just an accident,” Gehlert said of how he became involved with Missouri Valley Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Gehlert, who studied criminal justice in college, spent years working in construction and in child support enforcement for the state before connecting with Big Brothers Big Sisters. He said he simply applied for a job, but found his passion.

“It was kind of fate,” Gehlert said. “This is not the path that I ever thought I would take, but it just kind of fit.”

As a mentoring coordinator, Gehlert works to find adults in the community who are eligible and can commit to being a mentor to an area child. Gehlert, who mostly works in the school-based mentoring program, said the process of matching up a child and adult really focuses on how personalities and schedules match.

Gehlert meets with volunteers, and perspective volunteers, and tries to find where they would fit best.

“A lot of it is by instinct and just by knowing both and kind of getting a vibe for who I think the kid might click with,” Gehlert said. “It’s got to fit your schedule and it’s got to fit your personality.”

For Gehlert, it’s an incredibly rewarding experience. The best part of the job, he said, is definitely the children he gets to work with. When asked what his favorite memory was, Gehlert spoke of two young men, one now a junior in college and one who recently finished high school.

Those two men were once young boys in the Big Brother Big Sister program and Gehlert was their mentor. He said he got to watch the two boys grow up and remains close with them to this day.

That relationship allows him to see lessons he once taught them come full circle, he said, and he believes they soon might look to become mentors too.

“I got a lot more out of it than they did,” Gehlert said.

But Gehlert loves working with any of the children in the program, adding that the idea of being able to give a child someone to come and talk to when there is a problem or an issue is part of the purpose.

“You feel like you can actually make that big difference,” Gehlert said.

Walking through the halls of South Elementary School with Gehlert on a weekday, you can see how many children stop to talk to him about issues they’re having or just to ask when he’s going to be able to find them a mentor.

Gehlert said the program has about 120 matches of children who have a mentor, with another 60 or 70 children on a waiting list hoping for a mentor. But Gehlert said that’s only his “official” list; his unofficial list, he says, is huge and finding mentors is the biggest problem, especially finding male mentors.

“I’ve got a huge list of kids that are waiting,” Gehlert said. “I don’t send a permission slip home unless I think I might have some mentors.”

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