Blue Earth Area Mentors’ new director is a familiar face
At the start of December, the Blue Earth Area Mentors received a new coordinator. For members of the Blue Earth area, this coordinator has an awfully familiar face, as she once was a mentor for the BEAM?group.
Peggy Olson has taken over the reins as the coordinator for the non-profit organization that started in 1998.
In the past, Olson has been on BEAM’s Tour of Tables committee and has been involved in it, in some capacity, for the past 10 years. She has been a mentor to two students, and has been involved in the BEA school community for as long as she can remember.
Olson lives in rural Blue Earth with her husband, Perry. They enjoy spending time outdoors together, attending Blue Earth activities, watching the Minnesota Vikings and spending time with their two kids and three grandkids.
Besides raising her own two children, Olson has had a hand in helping raise a multitude of Blue Earth Area children. As a young adult, Olson would babysit, and as she grew up and became a wife and a mother, she also became a foster parent to a number of children and was an exchange student host for many years. She has even been a confirmation mentor at her church, Trinity Lutheran.
“I am always touched by kids and the presence they bring to our lives,” says Olson. “Every child needs somebody that cares about them. We have a great community here with wonderful people who could be amazing mentors to some students who are struggling to connect.”
Olson says her hope as the new coordinator will be to pull in more mentors for students in need of one. There are still students in need of mentorship, says Olson, and it is important for both men and women of any age to step up and be a mentor.
“Mentorship isn’t hard. All you have to do is take time out of your week to be with a child who needs someone,” she says. “The benefits of being a mentor include gaining a new friend, getting out and doing things you haven’t experienced before, getting a little more exercise or social time. It’s like getting a second family. You get a forever-friend, you’ll have them forever.”
Olson says from her own experience that she continues to connect with her mentees, as do some other mentor friends she knows.
“This is a much-needed program that is very rewarding. These students are more apt to learn new skills like being polite, or helping others, or volunteering themselves later on in their life. It’s a game changer for some of our kids,” says Olson. “Everyone has a mentor they look up to.”
For Olson, it was her teacher, Mr. Pat Swarthout, and her sister, Linda Bromeland.
“Mr. Swarthout really helped me to prepare for the workforce after high school,” says Olson, who became a mother at a young age. “There was a program called the co-op program where high school seniors could find jobs while they were still students. It really helped me to not only understand the workforce a little better, but it helped me to get my foot in the door once I graduated.”
As for her sister, well, that is a simple answer as to why Bromeland was a mentor to Olson.
“She was my go-to. Whenever I had a problem, she was my listener. She always made time for me, and still does, when I need her.”
However, unlike when Olson was a teenager, she says students today are facing a mountain of new barriers in and out of school.
For younger students, the age of technology has brought about a few concerning issues in recent years, including spending more time indoors and on home electronics than outside and engaging in imaginative play with other children their own age. This not only has created issues with regards to education, but with adapting to social situations as well.
With older students in junior high and high school, the ability to balance activities and engage in positive behavior and attitudes has become more and more absent for at-risk students.
For Olson, it is not just about addressing these issues students are facing now, but rather addressing issues adults are facing too. Whether it is retire-age community members in need of a new friend or hobby, or other community members in need of companionship, Olson says mentoring is an excellent way to engage in the community.
“Right now, I am very excited to meet the mentees and their families, along with the mentors of the BEAM?team,” she says. “I can’t wait to get together with everyone and start having fun. It’s time I give back to my community. This town has already given me so much.”