Celebrating Al Veillette, A Champion of Youth Mentorship

Meet this year’s Brad Owen’s Excellence in Mentoring Award recipient, a longtime volunteer with the LINKS Lunch Buddy Program.

Whoever said one person can’t make a difference has never met Al Veillette, the esteemed recipient of this year’s Brad Owen’s Excellence in Mentoring Award.

Presented by Mentor Washington, this award honors everyday heroes who selflessly dedicate their time, energy, and resources to positively impact the lives of young individuals. Al’s exceptional and longstanding commitment to mentoring students through LWSD’s LINKS Lunch Buddy Program exemplifies the spirit of the award.

Partially sponsored by the Lake Washington Schools Foundation, the LINKS Lunch Buddy Program connects students from the Lake Washington School District (LWSD) with caring adult mentors. This year, 195 students were matched with mentors who volunteer to spend quality time with the students weekly during their lunch periods.

Driven by his passion for championing kids and their families, Al provides social-emotional support to students as a Lunch Buddy mentor at John Muir Elementary in Kirkland, WA. This year, he meets weekly with three lunch buddies: Surafel, Mario, and Dom. They enjoy playing Uno, Checkers, and Connect Four, while also engaging in heartfelt conversations that address both academic and emotional needs. Al’s strong connections with the students and staff also enable him to identify emerging needs and explore opportunities to provide additional support.

Al’s mentorship journey began 27 years ago, in 1996, when he became a Lunch Buddy to Nate and Tyson, guiding them through elementary school adventures and important life milestones. Decades later, their bond remains unbreakable, with Al officiating Nate’s wedding and reuniting with Tyson after 25 years. These lasting connections showcase the transformative power of mentorship and serve as a poignant reminder of the deep and lasting impact a mentor can have.

“[Al’s] commitment to showing up week after week has created a sense of stability and trust for our students,” says Gail Anderson, Secretary/Registrar and Lunch Buddy Coordinator at Muir. “His commitment and compassion for supporting students is amazing.”

Beyond his role as a Lunch Buddy, Al serves as the Care Pastor at Antioch Bible Church and leads outreach ministry efforts for children and families at Kirkland Heights, a Section-8 housing development in Totem Lake. Al actively seeks ways to support the local community through various events he organizes through his church. These include back-to-school haircuts and backpacks, Thanksgiving food baskets, Seahawks Christmas parties, and donating snacks and school supplies to teachers. Teachers often share stories of students excitedly showing off their new backpacks and haircuts, a testament to the tangible impact of Al’s efforts.

Al Veillette’s recognition as this year’s recipient of the Brad Owen’s Excellence in Mentoring Award is a testament to his unwavering commitment to making a difference. His journey, marked by decades of dedication and countless lives touched, is a powerful reminder of the importance of mentorship. Al’s story serves as an inspiration to us all, underscoring that mentorship truly matters.

Special thanks to Al Veillette and Gail Anderson for generously sharing their time to provide details that were instrumental to crafting this article. Information regarding Al’s first lunch buddies, Nate and Tyson, was taken from Mentor Washington’s social media post on May 16.

Bonnie is the Communications and Programs Coordinator for Lake Washington Schools Foundation.

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