Tim Schwartzenburg and Omar Garcia are 12 years apart in age, but once a week they come together as interact as if the age gap doesn't matter.
Schwartzenburg, 18, is Garcia's mentor through the school-based program of Big Brother Big Sisters.
He visits the 6-year-old Garcia, a first grader at Franklin Elementary School, once a week for 20 minutes as the two play board games, go out for recess and play other games together.
T-R PHOTO BY ANDREW POTTER
Tim Schwartzenburg, left, is a mentor to Omar Garcia through Big Brothers Big Sisters. He visits Garcia at Franklin Elementary School every week. They are pictured playing the board game Chutes and Ladders Thursday at the school.
"I want to be a positive influence and someone he can look up to and talk to," Schwartzenburg said.
The relationship started at the start of November so it is still new, but Franklin Elementary Counselor Karen Mussig has already seen Garcia start to open up more.
"It's incredible the impact a positive person can have to help him make positive choices," Mussig said.
She said Garcia is learning how to interact with Schwartzenburg and the hope is it will make him a better student and classmate at Franklin.
"Sometimes building relationships with peers is difficult for Omar," Mussig said. "He gets to practice being a good friend to Tim."
Schwartzenburg in turn is learning how to be a role model for younger people as he moves closer to adulthood.
"I'm learning better how to interact with younger kids and build relationships," he said.
At the beginning Schwartzenburg said it a little tough to get Garcia to open up to him. He would often leave his school and not even get a "goodbye" from Garcia.
But through the weeks of consistent meetings, Garcia is now warming up to his mentor. When they were playing a board game Thursday at the school Garcia reminded Schwartzenburg who usually has the upper hand in their games of tag.
"You are always 'it,'" Garcia said.
Mussig said it doesn't take much to be a positive mentor. Simple daily things that people do to lead them down the right path are picked up on by those younger people being mentored.
"It's just the everyday stuff," Mussig said. "Twenty minutes a week can make a huge difference."
To learn more about mentoring opportunities through Big Brothers Big Sisters, call the Marshalltown office at 641-753-6370.
Contact Andrew Potter at 641-753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org