Research has shown that the benefits of mentoring youth include increased high school graduation rates; lower high school dropout rates; healthier relationships and lifestyle choices; better attitude about school; higher college enrollment rates and higher educational aspirations; enhanced self-esteem and self-confidence; improved behavior both at home and at school; stronger relationships with parents, teachers, and peers; improved interpersonal skills; and a decreased likelihood of initiating drug and alcohol use.
Big Friend Little Friend is a youth mentoring program dedicated to positively impacting youth through fostering a friendship with a caring adult mentor through both Community Based and School Based Mentoring Programs. United Way Big Friend Little Friend provides youth, ages 7-14, from Yankton County with a mentor who serves as a positive role model and a supportive friend. Volunteer mentors are trusting and caring adults from the Yankton area who are passionate about youth in our community.
Rob Stephenson is very active in his community. As a member of several Yankton area boards and groups, Rob volunteers his time in many, many ways. But this was not enough for Rob. He wanted to make a lasting impact on young people’s lives, so he became a volunteer for Big Friend-Little Friend. That’s where he met Abel! Abel is thrilled when it is his day to meet Rob and is excited to be part of Big Friend Little Friend.
Webster School Principal Melanie Ryken said, “Rob’s presence at Webster School with the Big Friend Little Friend program is greatly appreciated and likely much more than he knows. He is always positive, reliable and ready for a fun time with his little friend every time he comes. Their relationship took off from the first time they met, and their times together are such a bright spot in his little friend’s day! The positive impact he is making on him is immeasurable. We appreciate Rob and his dedication to the youth in the Yankton community!”
Because of his commitment to making the lives of young people better, United Way & Volunteer Services of Greater Yankton was honored to present Rob Stephenson with the January 2024 Volunteer of the Month Award.
We asked Rob to share more about his volunteerism, in his own words:
I have lived in the Greater Yankton area my whole life except for 11 years in Omaha and Minneapolis for college and early in my career.
I began volunteering in 1990 for the Big Friend Little Friend program in Minneapolis.
I volunteer as a Big Friend for Big Friend Little Friend. Board member for Mouth Marty University, Yankton Thrive and Lewis and Clark Behavioral Health. Various positions in Sacred Heart Catholic Church, and Sioux Falls Catholic Diocese. Fundraising committee for Yankton Boys and Girls Club.
Approximate hours per year I volunteer is 110 hours. How can I not find 2 hours a week to contribute to helping my community and others who are experiencing life’s difficulties?
Volunteer work is enjoyable because it helps me associate with so many others in our community who devote their lives to serving others through their regular jobs.
I really appreciate those in the human services industries. They serve others all day every day!
My best volunteer experience was fundraising and helping lead major projects in town like Westbrook Estates and the new Sacred Heart Middle School and Community Center. Difficult but fruitful!
My advice to others who are thinking of volunteering is that God put us on earth to live fruitful, happy lives, but also to serve him and our brothers and sisters.