- Sponsorship -

‘A better side of me wanted to come out and wanted to stay out’

Custodian turned mentor helps third-grader thrive

Originally Published May 28, 2019

Pedro ‘Petey’ Benda does maintenance and custodial work for the school district, keeping up with an endless to-do list. But he also saves time each day at Gladiola Elementary for something that has become a priority — 15-minute conversations with third-grader Blake Hudson.

At the request of Principal Cheryl Corpus, Benda, a 2014 Wyoming High School graduate, is Blake’s informal mentor, a consistent person to help him start his day.

“He can talk about whatever he wants,” said Benda. “Since the beginning of the year to now, there’s been progress. He doesn’t act out as fast; he thinks and doesn’t make bad decisions.”

Pedro ‘Petey’ Benda has made mentoring a priority during his busy day as a custodian

Benda, who struggled himself with behavior in school, has taught Blake how to take deep breaths, count and calm down before reacting when upset. Blake said Benda helps him have “golden days”, which he explained as “when the day goes really well for me.” And if things go really well, Benda brings doughnuts or Taco Bell.

“In beginning of the school year, I wasn’t used to third grade, so when I started meeting with (Benda) I started to change,” Blake said. “It felt like a better side of me wanted to come out and wanted to stay out.”

At first, Benda, who lives in Comstock Park with his wife and infant daughter, said he wasn’t sure how to have to be a mentor for Blake. So he took small steps, having Blake jot down quotes in his notebook to reflect on. Adages include “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself” and “Nothing is particularly hard if you break it down into small jobs.’

Corpus said it’s staff members like Benda that can make a difference in students’ lives just by being a positive presence.

Blake Hudson said his mentor, Pedro (Petey) Benda, helped him handle third grade

“I see Petey willing to go the extra mile for our students. He doesn’t need to do this, but he takes 10-15 extra minutes every day for his mentoring,” Corpus said. “Blake looks forward to it every day, and it’s that ability to transition into the school-day knowing that an adult cares for him (that helps). He feels a part of the community, and he’s going back to his learning and finding success.”

For Benda, he’s learned that whether they are talking about sports, schoolwork or any other topic, just being there for Blake is what matters.

“When it comes to Blake, I’m not the best at advice but I think just being a person who will listen to him is important. That’s my main thing — just to be here. I always want to be consistent, to be consistently here.”


SNN article: 15 minutes once a week can make a difference

- Sponsorship -
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.


Longtime volunteer does whatever’s needed for school: ‘I love being here’

A 24-year parent and grandparent volunteer tends to student and family needs at Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Academy...

Lessons from a pandemic: ‘agile learners’ need ‘agile adults’

Reflecting on the end of fall semester and 2020, Superintendent Dedrick Martin sat down with School News Network to discuss how Caledonia adapted to school closures, virtual learning and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic...

It’s all about getting students back to classrooms, Supt. Shibler says of the vaccine

Superintendent Michael Shibler hopes the more people get vaccinated, the closer we are to the end of the pandemic...

Young constitutional scholars view current events, politics through historical lens

East Grand Rapids and East Kentwood high school We the People team members have qualified for the national competition, becoming well versed in civics and critical thinking along the way...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Virtual counseling office offers ‘one-stop’ services

The site offers new ways for students to connect, on anything from academic questions to mental health issues...

Pivoting from caretaker to virus tracker

Before Wyoming Public Schools switched to fully remote learning, registered nurse Amy Kamphuis spent the majority of her days tracking COVID-19 data to keep up with positive cases and students and staff who are quarantined...

Babysitting an apple

Ninth-graders wrote apple adventures during the weeklong “35 Ways to Babysit an Apple” project in English teacher Jeremy Schnotala’s class. The writing project inspires creative narratives and lots of drama...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU