YMCA Brother/Sister mentoring program benefits both mentees and mentors

The Mankato YMCA Brother/Sister mentoring program, in which adult volunteers are paired with participating youth, provides a rewarding experience for those involved.

“Our tagline is building ‘unique friendships between terrific kids and adult volunteers.’ So really we’re just that bridge connecting Mankato area youth with someone in the community, whether that’s a MSU student or community leaders, or parents or whatever, just a positive mentor leader role model in their life,” said Allison Braswell, who serves as the Mankato YMCA Brother/Sister Program Advocate and Recruitment Coordinator.

According to Braswell, the Brother/Sister mentoring program provides a wide range of benefits for all who participate.

“You gain a lot as a mentor too. First of all you’re making a difference in the life of a child which is the most important thing but you’re also gaining skills in those soft areas. Being able to organize your time, time management. Communicating with others. Getting to know a different demographic or another way of looking at living or life and putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes, so empathy. Those are really good skills for anybody to have in this world,” said Braswell.

MSU students who participate in the Brother/Sister program also say that they benefit from the program, primarily by reminding them of when they were kids.

“It’s very rewarding,” said Monica Montejo. “It feels like you’re with your younger sibling. You’re just kind of hanging out with them. You’re like a resource for them. In a way, it makes you reflect back on your own life. It’s just really positive.”

“It takes me back to being his age and to experience youth once again,” said Hayden Ekern.

Mentees also benefit from the Brother/Sister mentoring program.

“From what I’ve heard, she’s talking more, having more fun, and you see their personality come out more,” said Montejo of her mentee. “They just feel more connected with everyone.”

“They have that one on one attention which is so important. Mental health is a big topic now. So having somebody focused on them, that will talk to them, that will listen to them, that will expose them to do different things. I tell my college students a lot as mentors, let them see you going to school, let them see you doing your laundry, paying your bills, making phone calls. Show them what it’s like to navigate the world that you’re in,” said Braswell.

There are a wide range of activities mentors can take their youth mentees on.

“We’d do the Wow Zone. There’s a lot of events that the YMCA provides that we can go to. For example this Friday there’s a YMCA carnival event that we’re going to go to. Sometimes we’ll go to an art event for painting, we’ll go play soccer. Literally anything,” said Montejo.

“I’ve invited him to a few football games, we’ve been to MSU hockey games, we’ve been to church together, just anything that we get free time to do,” said Ekern.

There are two ways adults can volunteer as mentors, as a community based mentor or as a school based mentor.  Community based mentors are asked to commit to meeting with their mentee once a week for 2-3 hours. School based mentors are asked to meet with their mentee once a week for an hour for the course of the school year.

Both Ekern and Montego said they would recommend participating in the Brother/Sister program to others.

Photo Caption:

Allison Braswell is the Mankato YMCA Brother/Sister Program Advocate and Recruitment Coordinator. They provide 

children within the community to community leaders as a positive role model. (Dylan Long/The Reporter)

Write to Jeremy Redlien at

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