Ask successful people to describe their journey to success, and somewhere along the line they will credit the positive impact a mentor had in their lives.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is the oldest, largest and most effective youth mentoring program in the United States, changing lives through the power of one-to-one friendship for over 100 years.
As a program of Foundation For Youth, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bartholomew and Brown counties is the vehicle by which volunteers (Bigs) become that friend and mentor to youth (Littles) in our area. Bigs range from 15 to 80-plus years old. They are high school students, professionals, retirees or our neighbors, all with the common denominator of wanting to have an impact on the life of a young person.
Mentoring positively impacts the whole child across multiple domains of youth development. Research has shown that mentoring can play a powerful part in reducing drug abuse, youth violence, truancy and early parenting while greatly enhancing a young person’s prospects for leading a healthy and productive life.
Littles range from 5 to 17 years old and are referred to the program by teachers, principals, clergy, social service organizations, parents, grandparents or guardians. Reasons for enrollment in the program are as uniquely different as the child is individually; no two are alike. No matter the circumstances, each friendship — known as a match — develops over time into an equal relationship sharing their time and interests, while building trust and mutual respect for each other.
The numbers of challenges we all face in today’s world are many, regardless of the socioeconomic status. As a program, Big Brothers Big Sisters exists to support our families, meeting each one of them where they are in life. However, we cannot do it alone. It takes a community to inspire and equip today’s youth to become tomorrows productive citizens.
Our community partners are critical to our success. Partners such as Bartholomew Consolidated and Brown County school corporations, who allow us to bring our school-based program into the elementary, intermediate and middle schools. In addition, we are grateful that they also encourage their high school students to become a Big Brother or Big Sister.
Each year, we are required to provide a youth progress assessment to BBBS of America to evaluate outcomes reflected from each one of our matches. In our surveys, 98.8 percent showed our youth had been positively impacted in the areas of confidence;
93.2 percent in competence; and 98.4 percent in caring for others, meeting the mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters.
As a program, Big Brothers Big Sisters is offered 100 percent free of charge to participants. The necessary funds to bring this valuable program to our youth are raised through grants, private donations and special events. In Bartholomew County, Big Brothers Big Sisters hosts Bowl for Kids’ Sake; in Brown County, the organization hosts the annual Ed Lewis Memorial Golf Tournament and the Wine Dinner. These events have a large impact in our annual budget, and their success is critical to our ability to continue to bring this invaluable program to our communities.
Knowing the costs of running the programs is important, as is working to reach that financial goal. However, the true impact of Big Brothers Big Sisters cannot be quantified, nor can we afford not to do whatever it takes as a community to make sure the program continues.
One Little, a 17-year-old boy who has been matched since age 11, said the program has changed his life. “I use to hate my life. I didn’t like the way my life was going before I met my big brother.”
Mentoring matters; mentoring has a big impact on our youth in the classroom, with their families and peers and in the community. You can help us continue to make a difference. Enroll your child, become a Big, become an advocate raising awareness or funds as we work to increase the impact made to the hundreds of youth in our communities. No partnership is too big or too little. The impact will always be positive and will always be big!
Start something big for our youth and for our community.
Laura J. Moses is the program director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bartholomew and Brown counties. For more information, contact Moses at 812-348-4558, ext. 217, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.foundationforyouth.com.