Nonprofit Spotlight: Sidekicks program benefits children

Farm Forum

Aaron Kjenstad is executive director of Sidekicks youth mentoring program.

About two weeks ago, I received a phone call while working up in the old Aberdeen Central High School. The caller wanted to know when our next martial arts class was.

Looking around, I did not see many qualified black belt martial arts instructors. I had to break the news to the caller: Sidekicks is not a martial arts school in Aberdeen.

Doing a quick Google search, I did come across a Sidekicks martial arts school in Idaho. That school prides itself in teaching youngsters focus, discipline, self-control and perseverance. It is safe to say, Aberdeen’s Sidekicks will not be teaching any iron butterfly spin kicks, or even the basic roundhouse kick. However, Sidekicks of Aberdeen does wish to instill many of the same positive characteristics in children — such as discipline, self-control and perseverance — but in a completely different way.

Sidekicks is a youth mentoring program which aims to help kids expand their horizons, realize their potential and enrich their lives through caring adult mentors. We search for volunteers who are matched one-on-one with a child between the ages of 8 and 12. The biggest thing our mentors do is spend quality time with their “small.” Mentors are part of a team who strive to make a difference in a child’s life. Parenting is not an easy job. To assist parents, raising a child should include a team of caring adults. Parents must be the leaders. Mentors are one part of that team. Mentors do not replace parents, but instead echo the same positive values children learn at home.

What are mentors? Mentors are trusted adults who invest their time, energy and love into a child. Mentors provide a model for a youngster to follow. Mentors listen and offer encouragement and praise. Most of all, a mentor is someone who cares.

Mentors involved in Sidekicks are carefully screened, which includes a formal application, interview with the director, reference check and a background check. Children in our program are great kids who are looking for another caring adult in their lives. Parents are informed of Sidekicks by a teacher, pastor, counselor, family member or any other caring person.

Did you know January is National Youth Mentoring Month? January is a time to thank and honor mentors. Community members are encouraged to contact their local mentoring agency and volunteer to become a mentor, express their appreciation or make a financial contribution. A big thank you to all our volunteer mentors, who strive to make a difference in the youth of Aberdeen. Another big thank you goes to all the local businesses and individuals who have supported Sidekicks over the past several years.

If you would like to make a difference in your community and become a mentor, or would like to make a monetary donation, please contact our office or visit our website. Sidekicks could not carry out its mission without volunteers from the community or without monetary donations. You may call our office at 605-725-5439, visit our website at, or email us at for more information.