Big Sister, Carol Griffin and Little Sister, Brittany enjoy the evening at the Big Brothers Big Sisters annual picnic in 2019.
MAKE AN IMPACT THROUGH MENTORING
Story by Lee Knernschield & Kirk Schreiber, Big Brothers Big Sisters (November 2019)
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Jefferson City has had a local presence in the Jefferson City community for over 30 years. Thanks to a group of local citizens who saw a need for a structured mentoring program, and the generosity of the Jefferson City Area YMCA, our local Big Brothers Big Sisters agency was established.
Our mission is to support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth. The majority of the children served 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 hundreds of 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 enables us 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 enables Big Brothers Big Sisters of Jefferson City to keep our operating costs to a minimum. The YMCA generously provides free office space and provides administrative support to our agency.
In the last year, we have been extremely fortunate to see the revitalization of the Missouri Mentoring Initiative (MMI). In an effort to invest in our workforce tomorrow by investing in our youth today, Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe saw the need to formally reinstate the MMI program. Through the MMI, State of Missouri employees may receive the equivalent of one hour paid leave each week to mentor a child through Big Brothers Big Sisters. This program is invaluable to our agency, as it has the potential to significantly increase the number of children we are serving through school based mentoring.
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 200 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 little with college planning and securing their first jobs. The community based program provides a great opportunity for a volunteer to develop a stronger connection with the child and their family.
School based mentoring offers a wonderful option for a one-on-one relationship with a child that is different than the traditional community based program. Through a partnership with the Jefferson City Public Schools, mentoring is offered for students grades K – 12.
School mentors visit their students only at school during the school day when in session. Visits usually last from 30 to 60 minutes with an average around 45 minutes. Bigs engage with the student one-on-one with a variety of activities that often includes reading, helping with class assignments, playing games, puzzles, arts/crafts, outside activities on the playground, and just good one to one conversation.
Research has proven time and again that mentoring programs work and make a tremendous impact on the 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, and a desire to learn; builds self-esteem, confidence, improved listening skills and social appropriateness. Mentoring can assist a child with managing conflict appropriately, with developing problem solving skills and helping them not feel isolated and alone. Mentoring also supports strength-based practices with a child that builds overall resiliency that will pay great dividends over their lifetime.
You think you might be 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.
As a 3rd grade boy so eloquently stated when asked what he would do if he had a mentor, “well, the possibilities are endless.” Do you want to make an impact--a real impact? Do you want to make a positive lasting difference? Then come join us and become a Big Brother or Big Sister. There are children in need of a mentor who are waiting right now!
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Jefferson City is a proud United Way of Central Missouri partner agency. Please call Big Brothers Big Sisters of Jefferson City at (573)634-3290 or contact us online at www.bbbsjeffersoncity.org to learn more.