YMCA Big Brother/Sister Program benefits both

Getting the opportunity to be a role model for someone is a unique and special feeling. Two students at Minnesota State University, Mankato have decided to dedicate their time to being a positive figure in their someone’s life through the YMCA Brother/Sister program in Mankato.

Kenry Atubel, a graduate student pursuing an education degree and MSU track athlete, has been a mentor for the program for roughly four months. His experience becoming a mentor was more challenging than he anticipated.

“In the beginning, I had to learn to be okay with being uncomfortable, you both don’t know much about each other so getting to know one another, and enjoying each other’s company while working toward a goal was something I’ve never done,” Atubel said.

Since pursuing a career in education, this was his first experience mentoring those in the program.

“This was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, you never know how much you can affect someone’s life. Just by being yourself, you can change someone’s life,” Atubel said.

The YMCA Brother/Sister Program was created to form a bridge to connect adult mentors to the youth to enhance their self-confidence and communication skills. All mentors go through a series of training to understand how to respond to certain situations these mentees may be going through.

A lot of the mentees come into the program dealing with life’s issues, whether at home or in school.

Ashtin Gravley, a senior at MSU who is majoring in exercise science, joined the program about a year ago as she helps her mentee simply by just being someone to who they can open up to.

“I never had a sister growing up, so for me, it helped me grow as a person in ways that I didn’t even think about. I have helped my mentee through a couple of minor family issues, like if she gets in a fight with her mom, I’ll talk her through it,” Gravley said. “We also do some crafts that are pretty fun, we play some games or go to the mall.”

Overall, the program is very “college schedule friendly” as mentors can pick and choose when to meet up with their mentee. 

“I think this is a perfect fit for MSU students. I’ve already talked to my friends and recruited a couple people to the program,” said Gravley. 

Anyone can become a mentor, however, boy mentors especially are needed in the program according to Gravley.

“There’s a lot of boys in the mentee program who don’t get assigned anyone, and then they age out of the program, it’s so sad. We really need guys specifically,” said Gravley.

Only having to meet a few hours at most, the YMCA Brother/Sister Program is a way to volunteer your time for a good cause.

“The flexible scheduling is nice because you can kind of choose your hours, it’s one to two hours a week at most,” said Gravley. “If you’re willing to put in a little effort with a child and make someone’s day, it’s a great opportunity.”

Header Photo: Ashtin Gravley (top) and Kenry Atubel are mentors in the YMCA Big Brother/Sister Program. The goal of the program is to have adult mentors help their youth mentees improve their self-confidence and communication skills. (Courtesy photos)

Write to Julia Barton at

One thought on “YMCA Big Brother/Sister Program benefits both

  • Abel

    These 2 are very amazing need way more big brothers in the community


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