Celebrating its 30th year, Thrive has been supporting children and their families in the Bozeman area since 1986. Each year, the nonprofit organization serves 8,000 children, parents and families through multiple programs.
One of the signature programs for Thrive is the Child Advancement Project (CAP) Mentorship. CAP matches adult community members and college students with K -12 students in the Bozeman and Big Sky school districts. After being matched, the student and mentor meet once a week during the school year. There are three types of matches. A social mentor is primarily a buddy and plays games with the student for an hour. Academic mentors work with students struggling with a particular area where the mentor functions similar to a tutor. Enrichment mentors work with kids who are apathetic about school and may not be exceeding academically, but need something extra.
MSU student Lauren Myers, a junior in American Studies and CAP intern, explained how important a mentor can be in a student’s life. “Studies have shown that having a mentor really helps a child feel more important and more confident,” she said. “It’s not just about getting them caught up on their school work, it’s more about the fact that someone else cares for them outside of their family. A lot of kids may come from places where they don’t get a lot of needed attention so if they have a person outside of their school, outside of their house that is coming to see them, it’s really special.”
Not only does the program help the students receiving guidance, but the mentors can also take a lot away from CAP. Myers told about the personal benefit she has received from the program, “I have a student that comes from a very difficult space. I started with her when she was in sixth grade and now she is in eighth grade, and seeing how excited she is every time she sees me makes me feel like I’m doing something for someone else.” She admitted that connections can take some time to fully develop. “It took us about a year for her to fully trust me, but once we started talking about emotional things I knew she saw me more as a friend or confidant. You have to think about how many people you trust, for me it’s probably about five, and that I’m one of those five for her, it makes me feel like my life is meaningful.”
All personality types are accepted and appreciated by Thrive for becoming a CAP mentor. “If you’re quiet, that’s okay, there are some quiet kids that don’t necessarily want a mentor that is super bubbly because that may be offputting for them. If you are super bubbly, extrovert to the max, that’s great too because we are going to have those kids who may be ADHD, bouncing off the walls, and they need to know they can succeed even though they may be struggling in the classroom because they can’t focus,” Myers said. CAP is always looking for college students to become mentors.
On top of the CAP program, Thrive also runs Girls for a Change, a program for girls eighth -12th grade, which according to the Thrive website, “inspires girls to create change in themselves, each other and the the world.” Another Thrive program is Parent Liaison, which encourages a connection between home and school, Parenting Place, designed to help parents enjoy parenting and enhance their skills and the Partnership Project which provides support to young families with young children.
Living in Bozeman, and being a member of the community, Myers believes that everyone should give back. She said, “I’m a believer that you need to give back to the community, and what better way to give back to the community [than becoming a CAP mentor]? You’ll learn a lot about yourself while doing it. If you struggle with commitment, it teaches you to stick with something because it’s important, and once you meet your student, it will solidify how important it is that someone counts on you.”