Decatur, IL,
08:00 AM

Why Aren't You a Mentor?

State Farm® Agents Al and Melanie Schelling contributed regularly for Big Brothers Big Sisters events—“Because how can you say no to something that benefits kids?” says Al—their contact threw down a gauntlet. “Why aren’t you a mentor?” she asked. Mic drop moment.

Saying yes to a family match through their local Big Brothers Big Sisters program, Al and Melanie turned caring into doing and changed many lives. In big ways.

And even half a decade later the relationship is going strong. Jacob comes over to their house on a Saturday or Sunday nearly every weekend. Now 12, Jacob “is a pretty awesome young man — polite, thankful, and never asking for anything. He blends in well with our family,” according to Al.

During Jacob’s visits, they do a variety of activities. Now that he’s in seventh grade, helping him with schoolwork is a focus area.

Al and Melanie have been helping Jacob develop more comprehensive thinking skills. “In the beginning,” Melanie says, “I sat down and read each question with him. It wasn’t that Jacob didn’t know the answer, but more that he didn’t know how to structure the answer.”

And homework time has become a family affair. Al and Melanie’s two older daughters, Izzy and Allie, help Jacob with homework too. “It’s good for the girls to teach someone,” says Al. “Which is when you learn how well you know something.” Aside from homework, they all spend time reading each weekend.

The Schellings aren’t only in this for the near term. They expect to see Jacob graduate from high school and are in it for the long haul. As contacts for Jacob’s teachers, Al and Melanie are able to track his academic and social progress.

But it’s not all about homework. Al and Melanie encouraged Jacob to get involved in a youth basketball program, which adds balance. Jacob is included in family vacations and even family pictures. Al and Melanie’s three daughters love him like a brother.

Recently, the Schellings were planning a movie outing. Their 11-year-old daughter’s first question was, “Is Jacob coming too?”. She didn’t want to go with her parents, but if her ‘brother’ was going, she would too.

Mentoring relationships take on many forms, and this relationship benefits everyone involved. In addition to Jacob’s adoptive mom, the family match program introduced Jacob to other adult role models who care about him and are committed to his success. And Al and Melanie indicate an unbelievable change in their lives.

Melanie says, “Our relationship with Jacob has helped us open up more to what kids want and need.” Al adds, “Jacob has never asked us for anything; he just wants to hang out.

“Helping kids has become quite normal for us. We are quite blessed to be able to effectively operate our agencies while taking time out to make a difference.”

“It’s amazing that we can have a successful business while following our passion,” Melanie comments. “We want others to get involved like we are. The commitment can be as little as 10 hours per month, but can have a monumental impact on a kid’s life.”

To find mentoring opportunities in your area, visit® and search under local ‘Children & Youth Education’.



Other ways to get involved mentoring youth:

  • Tutor a student
  • Participate in class/group programs (e.g. Junior Achievement, coach an after school activity)
  • Serve as a foster parent
  • Become a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) to advocate in court for underserved children

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