It grew out of a talk between two neighbors, sitting outside on a summer evening.
“Martha [Trolin] and I were just talking about all the intellectual capital that resides in this community,” Ben Bauermeister recalled.
“But in many cases, those with the talent and experience have no connection to our schools. Their children are grown, and they don’t have kids in school anymore.”
That led to the creation of a website in 2015 where individuals can list what their specialty is and when they are available to mentor young people.
“Right away we had about 100 people sign up,” Bauermeister said. “Now we’re at more than 200 mentors.”
The mission of Skillmation is to share skills with youth who want to gain knowledge and experience in a specific area or profession.
Its purpose is to integrate the talents and skills of individuals, nonprofits, and businesses located in the local community; to build a bridge between those with specific areas of expertise to those with enthusiasm to learn; and to connect teachers, students, young entrepreneurs, and apprentices with skilled professionals, retired residents, and new members to the community.
Bauermeister said mentoring is usually tutoring in academic subjects.
“It’s helping them catch up or keep up,” he said.
But through Skillmation, kids are getting to explore their interests.
“It’s been fun to watch them expand their skills,” he added.
Ninth graders take part in a food innovation project in which they take locally- sourced food and figure out how to add to it.
“They take locally grown apples and turn them into apple butter,” he said. “And last year students made beeswax candles using local bees.”
Being able to exercise their entrepreneurial spirit by creating a product and determining how to package and label it and how to market it, is something students don’t normally have the chance to do, he said.
And each May the student's host Market Day where they sell the products that they’ve made.
Another project of the participants in Skillmation is organizing the Jefferson County Job Fair, bringing together job seekers with employers and helping students learn what skills are needed to be hired for a specific role.
Currently, Skillmation has about 30 active mentors helping students and seniors in the community who want to learn something new.
“In the past, we’ve had up to 60 mentors working at a time,” Bauermeister said. “We’ve had four residents who are PhD-level physics scientists working with students. It’s that kind of specialty that we look for.”
Persons experienced in mathematics and science are in need often, he said.
The program has helped parents, too.
“We had a mother who worked full-time and couldn’t stay on top of helping her children with their school assignments,” he said. “We provided a subject coach to help. The mother told us it was the first time she’d seen her kids excited about going to school.”
Another student told his mentor thanks for being there because he had no reliable adults in his life, Bauermeister said.
“Those are the kind of stories that make us feel we’ve created something worthwhile,” he said.
In the future, Skillmation hopes to increase its presence in Chimacum Schools and roll out in other districts.
Skillmation founders want to connect those who “have been around the track once or twice with kids who have curiosity and the energy to take on new problems,” Bauermeister said.
“We’re always looking for more mentors,” he added. “This is a great community. It’s rewarding to work with them.”
Gary Smith, one of the Skillmation volunteers, added his take on mentoring.
“Our community’s young people are seeking your time, kindness, and experience,” he said. “For example, sixth- to eighth-graders have started a lunchtime chess club and they’re looking for someone to provide guidance and support (one-two hours, one day/week).
“Students are working to establish a school-wide composting program and have asked for community support creating and maintaining this exciting endeavor.
“You can also help our young people who are struggling with math and reading in the high school. Students are seeking help and encouragement and often just need a little one-on-one extra time with a compassionate adult.”
For more information and to volunteer to mentor go to skillmation.org. Bauermeister is available at 206-226-3280, or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To volunteer email email@example.com.
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