One of Everybody Wins! Iowa’s most popular programs is at Hillside Elementary in West Des Moines. Jeff Bolton is part of the reason for the success of this program. Jeff has been a mentor for four years with EWI, reading with the same student, Fabian, for each of those years.
“Jeff always goes above and beyond for the program,” Anna Sunstrom, EWI Volunteer Manager and former site coordinator at Hillside said. “Getting there early, staying late to help with cleanup, and reading with any student whose mentor is gone,”
Jan Fitzsimons, current Hillside site coordinator, had many positive things to say about Jeff and Fabian’s relationship.
“Jeff cares about Fabian, making conversation about his day, week, and finding books that particularly appeal to Fabian,” Jan said. “He has brought books from his home to share. I remember ‘Into the Volcano’ was a cart book that was was a thrill!”
When Jeff first started reading with Fabian, communication was difficult as Fabian is an ESL student. Things got easier as time went on and the pair discovered shared interests in things like soccer and family.
Jan said that Jeff frequently engages with other mentors, discovering common interests or making conversation.
“Whoever has been at Jeff’s table is familiar with his warm smile,” Jan said. “Jeff encourages and adds kind words for his coordinator about his appreciation of the program and her organization.”
Jeff has also enjoyed filling in for other mentors when they are absent, reading with other students and getting to know them.
When asked why he decided to become a mentor, Jeff said he wanted to give back to his community. Although he is not from West Des Moines, Jeff works as a firefighter for the West Des Moines Fire Department and feels that West Des Moines is his community.
Outside of being a firefighter and reading with EWI, Jeff enjoys spending time with his family, going fishing, and reading.
Because of work responsibilities, Jeff will not be able to return to the program next school year. His student Fabian ages out of the program after this year as he will be moving on to sixth grade, so Jeff feels that the time is right to take a break.
Jeff will miss his time reading with Fabian. He wants to give the advice to current or prospective mentors to be committed to the program and show up every week because that’s what the students expect from their mentors.
We want to thank Jeff for his many years of service. We couldn’t do this without fantastic mentors like him.