Gabriel Rysdahl, a senior at St. Olaf College, is the January recipient of the Healthy Community Initiative’s (HCI) “Making a Difference Award.” The award celebrates those groups and individuals in the community who have a positive influence on Northfield youth.
January is National Mentoring Month, and Rysdahl was selected for his commitment to mentoring youth for the past three years through Project Friendship. Project Friendship is a mentoring program that matches St. Olaf and Carleton students with Northfield youth in grades 2-7.
Rysdahl mentors two youth, meeting with each of them once a week to do activities they enjoy, like playing soccer, going to a movie, skateboarding or playing guitar.
“Mentoring allows me to break my St. Olaf bubble and experience the lives of my mentees,” he said. “I learn so much from ‘my guys’ and also am able to help them out with issues they may be going through. I was young once also and can relate so well to the struggles and joys of a young guy’s life.”
Rysdahl recommends mentoring to anyone who enjoys kids and wants to become involved in the community.
“There’s no agenda, other than to hang out and spend time with each other. It’s a great program,” he said.
Kathy Lansing, community director of Project Friendship, said Rysdahl has recruited many new mentors to the program by setting a positive example on campus.
“He has a sunshine smile and just looks like someone you can trust to be a good friend. He is that!” she said.
HCI and the Northfield News present the Making a Difference Award cooperatively. If you know an individual or group that you would like to nominate for this award, click HERE for nomination guidelines and the easy-to-complete application or find HCI on Facebook. Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis and are selected by a review team of HCI board members and local youth.