From mentee to mentor: local mentor shares impact of mentoring program

LASTING IMPRESSION — Mentee Quinn Bittner (left) and Mentor Steven Ruzek (right) meet for a game of football.

By Gabby Christensen
Over the years, Steven Ruzek of Albion has had many mentors who have left a lasting impression on him.
Because of this, Ruzek has gained an understanding of the important part role models play in a young person’s life.
For this reason, Ruzek volunteered to become a mentor through Boone Central TeamMates with the intent to make a positive impact on today’s youth.
“I have learned that it is important in life to have those connections to learn and to grow personally as well as professionally,” Ruzek said. “Being a mentor in the TeamMates Program has been a rewarding experience. It has been great to see the joy my mentee has been able to experience through different opportunities the Teammates Program provides that he may not otherwise have.”
Ruzek, a loan officer at Cornerstone Bank, also serves as treasurer for the Albion Economic Development Corporation and he is a member of the Boone County Emerging Leaders.
In his spare time, Ruzek enjoys being active in sports and outdoor activities, as well as officiating basketball games.
Ruzek and his wife, Courtney, who is a PA at the Boone County Health Center, are expecting their first child in March. Together, they also have a 10 month old puppy named Shiloh.
Each week, Ruzek said he meets with his mentee, Quinn Bittner, to play cards, shoot hoops or enjoy another fun activity.
As a mentor, Ruzek said he hopes to build a positive relationship with the other mentors and mentees in the program.
“The goal is to continue to be in the program with the same mentee to see them accomplish high school graduation,” Ruzek said. “Throughout that time, I also hope to be a positive role model and, in return, learn a few things along the way from my mentee.”
Ruzek said Program Directors Sarah Bird and Angela Temme work continuously to come up with new activities that will help create memories for both mentees and mentors.
Ruzek said it’s important for students to have the opportunity to participate in a program, such as TeamMates so that they can experience what positive relationships should resemble.
“If a mentee in the TeamMates program looks forward to spending time with their mentor for just 45 minutes a day, one day a week, to help them forget about the little things in life, then it’s worth the time the mentors invest into the program,” Ruzek said. “I encourage those in the community who may feel that they don’t have 45 minutes a week to give the gift of time to a student, to reconsider, and to feel free to ask current mentors about their experiences.”
Editor’s Note: This story is in honor of National Mentoring Month.