4-H Reading Buddies: Bailey and Oren

Michigan 4-H mentoring programs have a positive impact on the lives of youth and their mentees. Read about one of these Michigan 4-H mentoring programs and one of their matches!

Luce County 4-H Reading Buddies match Bailey and Oren.
Luce County 4-H Reading Buddies match Bailey and Oren.

All young people need a caring adult in their life that can provide guidance, lend a listening ear and support their goals and aspirations. While many youth find these individuals on their own, not all are so lucky. To help fill the void, Michigan State University Extension offers formal youth mentoring programs in 10 Michigan counties. Through these programs, and the time committed by caring mentors, Michigan youth are matched with an encouraging adult who serves as a personal coach, cheerleader and friend in their everyday life. These positive relationships help youth to make better decisions, improve their performance in school and feel special. In this MSU Extension series, we’ll explore three different Michigan 4-H mentoring programs and the impact they are making through three mentoring relationships. 

The Program

Located in Michigan’s upper peninsula, in the state’s second least populous county of Luce, is the small town of Newberry. With only 6,502 people in the entire county and a poverty rate that is 14.6 percent higher than the statewide average, the Michigan 4-H staff who support Michigan State University Extension’s mentoring programs have had to get creative to provide youth in their community with quality mentoring experiences.

Through this creativity, the 4-H Reading Buddies Afterschool Program was born. During the school year, older students mentor younger students directly after school. Each match meets weekly for nearly two hours and spends their time participating in activities designed to cultivate relationships and build new skills. During the last 20-30 minutes of their time together, the mentoring matches spend time doing paired reading activities to improve reading skills.

The Match

In November 2015, 4-H Reading Buddies matched sixth grader Bailey with kindergartner Oren. Bailey decided to mentor a kindergartener to share her love of learning and to learn something new herself.

“My first time meeting Oren, he was very shy and didn't talk much, if at all,” said Bailey. “Now every time he sees me, he gives me a big smile and tells me all about his day and how much fun he had. He is very funny, he is sweet and kind and listens very well.”

Over the past seven months, Bailey and Oren have established a strong relationship. They have worked together on crafts and science experiments, played games, cooked together and celebrated holidays. In addition, Bailey has helped Oren develop a love for reading.

“Oren really looks up to Bailey and loves to read because of their time together,” said John, Oren’s father. “She has made the program so special for him.”

Additional Information about Bailey and Oren's Match

  • Oren and Bailey’s bond is so strong, it has expanded beyond the mentoring program. Oren’s parents have taken him to see Bailey’s softball games and she has attended Oren’s sporting events.
  • Oren thinks of Bailey before holidays and makes her gifts.
  • Teachers at the school note that the program and these mentoring relationships have had a positive impact on the youth, including Oren.
  • “It was obvious from the beginning that this was going to be a strong match. Oren’s eyes light up when he sees Bailey,” said Jennifer Lasslet, Luce County 4-H Mentoring program coordinator.
  • “I've always wanted to help little kids and doing it educationally makes me feel proud of myself. I love seeing the smile on Oren's face while we are reading,” said Bailey.

Learn more about Bailey and Oren in their mentoring profile. Be sure to check out other articles in this series to view more examples of how mentoring is making a difference across the state.

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