For the past four years, Matt Kuiken has spent an hour each week serving as a mentor at York Chester Middle School.
“It’s an awesome opportunity to provide support to these students,” said Kuiken, who works just down the street from the school as a pastor at Gastonia’s First A.R.P. Church.
Kuiken encourages others to join Gaston County Schools’ mentoring program.
“Being a mentor doesn't take any special abilities, just a willingness to show up and to communicate value to this young person," he explains.
This year, Kuiken has been paired with 7th grader Supreme Hill. Their weekly meetings in the library involve everything from board games like Stratego to the app “Fruit Ninja” or even “MASH,” the classic middle-school game to predict one’s future.
Kuiken says he has been impressed by Supreme’s ability. “He’s a bright kid. My role is to encourage him in his potential,” he explains.
Earlier this year, that encouragement took the form of a bet. In an effort to tone down the distractions of “girl drama” during the school day, Kuiken challenged Supreme to stay single -- no girlfriend -- for two weeks. At the end of the bet, a teacher was called in to sign a contract stating that Supreme had, indeed, remained single, and Kuiken awarded him his prize: a can of soda.
Kuiken and Supreme have discussions about life goals and career options. Supreme says he might like to become a financial manager. His best subject in school is math.
“You could easily get straight A’s,” Kuiken tells him.
Supreme is unsure, but this inspires another bet: if Supreme makes the honor roll this semester, Kuiken will buy lunch for him and a friend. It’s a bet Kuiken is hoping to lose.