Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star is celebrating National Mentoring Month by bringing attention to the need for mentors to help ensure positive outcomes for young people in the North Texas, West Central Texas, Greater Houston, and Wichita County areas.
Launched in 2002 by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, National Mentoring Month is recognized and celebrated by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. It focuses national attention on the need for mentors, as well as how everyone – individuals, businesses, government agencies, schools, faith communities and nonprofits – can work together to increase the number of mentors to ensure positive outcomes for youths.
BBBS Lone Star encourages adults to turn their concern for young people into direct action by becoming a “Big” to a “Little” through its mentoring program.
“Having a mentor builds social capital for some of the most vulnerable youth in our community,” said Alistine Turnbull-Blackshear, President of BBBS Greater Houston Market. “Through mentoring, the children in BBBS programs develop the assets they need to be successful – things like self-confidence, problem solving skills and the ability to make good decisions.”
According to BBBS Lone Star, 98% of children involved in their program were promoted to the next grade level or graduated after being matched for 6 months or more, and 93% improved or maintained good standing in academic performance.
“This was the first time that I actually felt I had an adult on my side who believed in me,” said a BBBS Lone Star mentee. “I slowly started to change my behavior and it wasn’t easy.”
To become a Big, volunteers can apply on the BBBS Lone Star website. The ideal Big has a passion for the community, enjoys working with kids and has time to commit to the program. After a thorough background check, the mentor is matched with a Little in their community to meet up with them two-to-four times a month doing activities the two enjoy. There are also other core mentoring opportunities available depending on the volunteer’s schedule.
For those wishing to enroll their child, applications are available on the BBBS Lone Star website. Youth ages 6 – 16 can enroll and must be capable of benefiting from a relationship with a Big. They must also want a Big and understand the role of a mentor, as well as have a parent/guardian willing to be a partner with BBBS Lone Star by maintaining contact and keeping the organization informed of changes within the family/match. Once matched in the program, youth can remain with their mentor under BBBS support through their graduation from high school and into their post-secondary education.
There are also opportunities, such as the BBBS Amachi Program, for children with a family member who has been or is currently incarcerated, on parole or on probation, who need additional support and guidance due to these circumstances. The program connects children with role models from all walks of life.
All Bigs are background and referenced checked, interviewed and receive on-going training and support. A Match Support Specialist will then find the right Big for a child based on personality, likes, dislikes, background, age and location of the Big to the child. When a child is matched, the parent/guardian is notified and given an in-depth profile of the Big to approve.
“We suggest consistent dates and times so everyone can look forward to the fun,” said Turnbull-Blackshear. “We take great pride in finding the perfect match for a Little. Just as it takes time for anyone to make new friends, it may take us a while to find the right Big.”
For more information about Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star, visit bbbstx.org.