Volunteers helping kids find success



    BYU students involved in ACCESS — Advocates for Child Community Exposure and Socializing Success — volunteer to help children from dysfunctional families succeed.

    Students help the children improve in academic and social skills.

    Mark Wangsgaard, a senior from Kansas majoring in mechanical engineering, is the director of ACCESS.

    “The main focus is helping children of underprivileged homes increase their self-esteem and have a positive role model to look up to,” Wangsgaard said.

    ACCESS is a break-away organization from the national program called “Big Brothers and Big Sisters.”

    “It started when people realized that there was a need for it,” said Amber Porter, a junior from Wisconsin majoring in international studies.

    Approximately 260 volunteers work with 130 family participants. One male student and one female student are required to work with each family. The volunteers work with the children two to three hours a week. Once a month, there is a super-Saturday activity, Porter said.

    Typical activities include helping the children with their homework, taking them to the park and reading with them.

    These activities help the volunteers and the children form a close relationship and help the children attain a higher self-esteem.

    Families are usually referred to ACCESS one of three ways, Wangsgaard said.

    “Families contact us after receiving a referral from friends, or they are referred to us by a social worker at Wasatch Mental Health or counselors at schools,” Wangsgaard said.

    ACCESS is composed of a director, five coordinators and 25 supervisors.

    “The supervisors train the volunteers,” Wangsgaard said.

    “Supervisors explain the volunteers’ responsibilities and then someone from Wasatch Mental Health will come in and give additional help in training the volunteers on how to deal with special situations.”

    ACCESS is in special need of male volunteers. Most of the volunteers are women, and male volunteers are needed to form the pair couple that interact with the children in ACCESS.

    To become an ACCESS volunteer, BYU students must fill out an application. This application is then reviewed by the ACCESS director and a BYU police check is run to see if the volunteer has a clear record.

    ACCESS requests that volunteers who come to work plan to stay active in the program for two semesters.

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