By Lee Knernschield, Big Brothers Big Sisters
Do you have one or two hours free each week? Are you looking for a way to give back to the community? Have you ever thought about sharing your unique personality with others? If you answered yes to just one of these questions, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Jefferson City wants to talk to you. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Jefferson City has been a part of the mid-Missouri community for over 30 years. Thanks to a group of local citizens who saw the need for a structured mentoring program in conjunction with the generosity of the Jefferson City Area YMCA, our local Big Brothers Big Sisters agency was formed.
Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mission is to create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth. Most children we serve are from single parent homes and may be struggling socially or academically. Our goal is to match them with a friend they can count on to provide support, advocacy and help ignite the potential inherent within them.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Jefferson City is fortunate to have many volunteers who give freely of their time to support our mission. The partnerships with our volunteers, the United Way and the Jefferson City Area YMCA is critical to our success. United Way funding provides the necessary financial support to enroll, screen, match and supervise relationships between children and volunteers. United Way contributions are directly tied to ensuring a safe mentoring program for our local youth. Operating as a sponsored program of the Jefferson City Area YMCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Jefferson City is able to keep our operating costs to a minimum.
Big Brothers Big Sisters pairs children with mentors who spend time with them at our local schools and throughout the community. Our agency serves nearly 150 children each year who have been identified as needing a mentor in their life. Through community based mentoring, a child and mentor experience activities together in a less structured setting. Community Bigs (mentors) and Littles (children) can share moments going out to eat, attending sporting events and exploring the community. Several of our community based Bigs have even helped their Littles with college planning and securing their first jobs. The community based program provides a great opportunity for a volunteer to develop a closer connection with the child and their family.
School based mentoring offers a wonderful option for a one-on-one relationship with a child in a more structured setting. Through a partnership with the Jefferson City School District, mentoring is offered for students grades K – 12. School mentors visit their students at school only. Mentoring visits usually last between 30 to 60 minutes. Bigs in the school based mentoring program may spend time helping with class assignments, playing games, eating lunch and engaging in one to one conversation with their Little.
In the last year, we have worked to raise greater awareness of the Missouri Mentoring Initiative (MMI). In an effort to invest in the promise of Missouri youth, Governor Parson and Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe encourage Missouri employees to mentor a child with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Through the Missouri Mentoring Initiative, State of Missouri employees may receive the equivalent of one hour paid leave each week to mentor a child. Mentors are matched with waiting littles in our school based mentoring program.
Additionally, we are excited about a new mentoring partnership with St. Nicholas Academy. The Academy’s mission is to partner with under-resourced families to break the cycle of poverty for children through supportive residential care and exemplary education. Free of charge, children receive a safe, loving and supportive living and learning experience; a quality education with St. Peter Interparish; and a year-round program with summer activities that provide many growth-filled experiences. Through this site based program Big Brothers Big Sisters has matched high school students with the boys residing at St. Nicholas. The matched pairs have spent time together playing basketball, doing schoolwork, sharing a meal, watching movies and building friendships. This program is proving to be mutually beneficial to both the boys at St. Nicholas as well as the high school students as they learn the value of helping others. Currently, we have four active matches at St. Nicholas and look forward to expanding this program as new boys move into the home. Big Brothers Big Sisters was fortunate to receive a United Way Community Support Grant to fund the start-up costs associated with this new program.
Research has proven time and again that mentoring programs work and make a tremendous impact on kids who participate. Mentoring promotes healthy and positive relationships between mentees and mentors which in turn builds the child’s capacity to develop other healthy relationship with peers and adults. Mentoring activities promote literacy, other academic skills, builds self-esteem and improves listening skills and social appropriateness. Mentoring can also assist a child with managing conflict appropriately.
People may think they are too young or old to volunteer. Our mentors range in age from 16 to 80. They are retired persons, current & former educators, engineers, doctors, attorneys, military, executives, professionals, grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles…all sharing a common thread. They are someone who cares, who listens, and who will spend a little quality time each week with a child to let them know they are not alone.
There are children waiting right now, waiting for someone like you to step forward and spend a little time with them. An hour a week is all it takes to make a big difference in a child’s life. Please call Big Brothers Big Sisters of Jefferson City at (573) 634-3290 or contact us online at www.bbbsjeffersoncity.org to learn more.