Mentoring Program Paves Way for Long-Lasting Friendship

When Scott Cieslek was looking for volunteer opportunities three years ago, his wife and daughter agreed that he would be a good mentor.

They were right.

He was matched with a boy who was on the waiting list for the Outagamie County Mentoring Program and they have been getting together weekly ever since. The program, which provides training to volunteers, benefits both the mentee and the mentor.

Scott Cieslek and his mentee, Landon, gather at The Grand Meridian in Appleton on Dec. 10, 2019, for the Outagamie County Mentoring Program Christmas party.

Cieslek is among six members of the Retired & Senior Volunteer 55+ Program who mentor youth. RSVP is sponsored by Volunteer Fox Cities.

“For me, I just enjoy getting together and doing a lot of different things with Landon and he does, too,” he said. “It allows me to kind of be a kid and to do different things, like go bike riding. I enjoy being active.”

In addition to riding their bikes, he and Landon, 13, enjoy playing basketball at the YMCA. As a benefit of the program, mentors and mentees receive a free membership when they visit the facility together. They also shoot hoops during the summer at the Heart of the Valley YMCA outdoor courts. The pair recently started playing chess at the Neenah Public Library, which has a Thursday night chess club that teaches the game. Cieslek points out that he benefits most from the instruction.

“He seems to be more comfortable with the moves and the chess pieces,” he said. “I had no idea. There was a volunteer there who was helping us and I continued to ask questions.”

They also kayak, fish, bowl, go to Tuesday movies, volunteer together and attend the monthly Aviation Adventure Speaker Series at the EAA Aviation Museum in Oshkosh. They even toured the Green Bay NOAA weather station and assisted in launching a weather balloon.

The Outagamie County Mentoring Program also sponsors quarterly activities for mentors and mentees, such as their recent holiday party, bowling and Badger Sports Park outings.

Cieslek points out that their get-togethers allow Landon to expand his horizons and the program has been enlightening for himself.

“Landon is such a great kid,” he said. “It has allowed me to be active and to be part of his life, to hear about his ups and downs during the day and to know that you’re helping a little bit … there is some advice that I give. You would be surprised how great these kids are. All they need is a chance.”

In addition to mentoring, Cieslek volunteers at The Salvation Army-Fox Cities during the Christmas season by helping clients unload presents from their carts into their vehicles. He also volunteers during AirVenture. He and his wife, Lanette, and two friends also volunteer about 4 hours a week at Jake’s Diapers in Little Chute. He loads and unloads trucks, fulfills orders and organizes the warehouse. He also is a member of the Outagamie County Emergency Response Team and volunteers at his church’s food pantry and at the annual post office food drive.