By: Russell White, AmeriCorps VISTA Member with the Iowa Mentoring Partnership
For 19 years the North Fayette Valley (NFV) Mentoring Program strives to connect youth with a caring adult who can help them aspire, achieve, and develop to their fullest potential. The wonderful individuals who work with the program and work diligently everyday have made incredible matches over the many years. They support the matches wherever necessary and help to facilitate a sense of community among the mentors and mentees with all of the events they host for their matches. Approximately four years ago, the staff at NFV Mentoring matched a young boy with a man who would later go on to embody the spirit and mission of NFV Mentoring.
Chris Schveiger had a strong desire to get further involved in his community and help to give back. Chris is a county deputy, but also substitute teaches and coaches on the side whenever he has a day off of work. Despite already serving his community in a myriad of ways, Chris had a deeper desire to do more – to make a stronger impact on the community he loved so much. Once Chris had learned about NFV Mentoring and what the goal and mission of the program was, it seemed like a natural fit for both his desire to give back and his talent at making real connections with the youth in his community.
Carter’s older brother had a mentor and after seeing the type of things they would do and how much his older brother enjoyed it all, he expressed an interest in getting a mentor as well. His mother, Eileen, then asked Carter if he’d like her to start the process in signing her son up to be matched with someone at NFV Mentoring. After receiving an affirming yes, Eileen filled out the necessary paperwork and soon after received a call that her son had been matched with Chris Schveiger. None of them knew at the time that Chris and Carter were on their way to develop a close-knit bond like no other.
Carter was in 4th grade when he met Chris and was a very introverted kid who was somewhat shy and timid with Chris in the beginning. At times, it would feel like pulling teeth just to get a conversation going between the two of them. Their first time together as a mentoring match, they mostly just sat and played video games with each other. As a first-time meeting with each other, Chris figured that this would be the best way for them to get to know each other and also have a great time while doing it. Later that day, Eileen called the program coordinator and was excited to tell the program that Carter had a great time with Chris and was looking forward to seeing him again. That day was the beginning of an amazing relationship between the two of them; and it would only get stronger from there.
After enough time of being matched with each other and learning about one another, it became clear that the two of them had several things in common. For starters, the two of them really enjoy the outdoors and the environment. From that shared interest alone, the two of them become known as the most explorer-driven match that the NFV Mentoring Program has to date! It is not at all unusual for the program coordinator to receive pictures from Chris on their many outings. Everything from fishing, to visiting a college campus, and visiting a petting a zoo. One of their favorite things to do is to go out fishing and netting. During the spring, summer, and fall months they try to go out at least once a month to catch some fish. This year, the two of them are looking to getting Carter into a hunter safety course, because he has a strong desire to be licensed to hunt.
Among all of their adventures, Chris has a few of them which are his personal favorites. One of those adventures involves their mutual love for sports cars. Carter really likes Ford Mustangs, and lucky for him Chris has owned a Ford Mustang for the past several years. Every now and then they would take rides with one another in his Mustang, which Carter really enjoyed. It definitely satisfied his love for sports cars. Another one of their favorite memories involved the Homecoming Parade. For the homecoming parade, there was a parade of lights with all the police officers, deputies, and firefighters where all of their service vehicles were lined up with their lights flashing. During the parade, Chris let Carter ride in his squad car with him and run the lights and sirens. Something Carter thought was really cool and Chris thought was a lot of fun to share with him.
“Every day is a new exploration for us”. Looking back on their relationship, Chris cannot imagine anything better than what they have. When they first started out, they would hardly say anything to one another. But today, you would have a hard time getting them to not talk for hours and hours. They have really built a strong, lasting relationship over the four years they’ve had with each other. Chris himself described their relationship was being an amalgamation between being a cool uncle and a friend. “I am there to be his friend, but I am also there to advise and teach him. If he has something going on in his life or school, I will definitely tell him what’s up. At the end of the day, I am an adult and I’ll be there to guide him as much as have fun with him.”
Chris and Carter’s parents have seen a tangible difference in how Carter socializes on a daily basis. He’s also more of an outgoing kid, both in and out of school, which is something Chris and Carter’s parents find to be an incredibly positive change for Carter. Chris went into mentoring originally because he thought he could do more to benefit his community. In the end, he found that he was also becoming an all-around better person by mentoring Carter. “It shapes me in a way of becoming a better role model for the community. I hope people see me and see what I do for a living, in hopes that others will also think about giving to the community. I mean, there is always room to improve and to give back to your community.”
It also went on to make his job as a sheriff deputy easier, more impactful, and more meaningful by being able to help bridge a gap between the community and the men and women who make up the department. “Being part of the mentoring program really helps the community policing part of my job. They see you working with a child and then also see you patrolling. Getting involved in the community and making those connections helps bridge that gap between police officers and the rest of the community.”
Someone who has dedicated much of their life to serving their community as a county deputy, substitute teacher, and a coach still had a greater desire to do more to improve themselves and give back even more to their community. Chris personally believes that there is always something someone can improve on and that everyone has something give back to the community. If you are considering becoming a mentor but are still hesitating on the idea, Chris’s advice would be to “give the program a chance. Even if it’s a couple hours a month, you are going to change someone’s life. Don’t think about what you can do next week or next year; thank about what you can do right now to make a difference.” If you make that jump and commit to become a mentor and be that reliable figure in a young child’s life, than make sure you have “a willingness to learn, be flexible, and to be able to have a good education relationship with your mentee. Be sure you are willing to learn with them and adjust.”
Chris and Carter’s mentoring relationship seems to be flawless and they both envision this being a lifelong friendship. They both greatly admire one another for both similar and different reasons. Carter admires Chris for serving as a cop in his community, but also because of how committed he is to spending time with him and teaching him all kinds of things outside. Chris enjoys the fact that Carter gets excited about all of these activities outdoors and that he truly is an outgoing, fun young man. Carter’s parents highly admire how caring, thoughtful, and respectful Chris is as well. Whenever Chris wants to do something with Carter or take him out craw fishing, he always runs everything by Carter’s parents. Carter’s family has developed a tremendous relationship with Chris, and he feels like family to them. Eileen herself said that “we know that if we need him, he’s there for us.”
He also serves the mentoring program by being their most active advocate in recruiting youth for the program. Whenever Chris comes across a student that could benefit from the mentoring program, he makes a connection with that student. He has a talent at finding out what their personal story may be and if there is any way he could help that student. He makes youth referrals to the program often. He also gets involved in helping to attend and assist with events hosted by NFV mentoring. Considering all of the hard work and dedication Chris gives to Carter, the NFV Mentoring Program, and his community it comes as no surprise that Chris Schveiger was a recent award recipient of the 2019 Excellence in Mentoring Awards!
Chris and Carter’s story is a living testament to the great things that can come out of mentoring Iowa’s youth. It is also proof that you cannot be too busy to make a real impact and difference in your community. Even in Chris’s busy schedule serving the community, he purposefully sought out ways to make more of a difference. But you do not need to be an all-star mentor in order to make a powerful impact on someone’s life; all you have to do is be committed to the program and to the child. Become a mentor today and help to be a role model in your own community and help to give back by making a change in a child’s life!