Greater Good

Meaningful Match

Big Brothers Big Sisters

Article by Shannon Stewart Salinsky

January is national mentoring month. The month-long campaign focuses national attention on how mentoring benefits not only the individuals being mentored, but also strengthens families and communities. The campaign calls on everyone—including individuals, businesses, government agencies, schools, churches, nonprofit organizations—to lead the mentoring charge by donating to mentoring programs, volunteering and advocating for mentoring programs.

A Pioneer in Mentoring
Big Brothers Big Sisters has been a leader in mentoring for over 100 years. Established in 1904, it is one of the nation’s largest adult-youth mentoring organizations. Its mission is to provide children who face adversity with strong and enduring, professionally-supported one-on-one relationships that change their lives for the better. Through its affiliates, it matches one “Big” with one “LittleӉ€”a child 6 through 18 from a single-parent household, or a low-income home, or a household where a parent passed away, is incarcerated or away serving the military.

The program partners with people in the community to help each child achieve higher aspirations and build greater confidence, all while building better relationships, avoiding risky behaviors and achieving educational success. Mentoring children into making better decisions is a simple, yet effective concept. It works like this—someone volunteers to develop a relationship with a young person, offering friendship, support and guidance by spending time together, learning new things and building rapport and trust, the mentor helps the young person make better life choices.

A Special Mentor
One mentor in the local organization, Jesse Borries, stood out this year. “I recently nominated Jesse for the Big Brother of the Year award,” said Match Support Specialist, Rhonda Collier. “He is a great friend to his Little Brother, Ricky and he is also is an amazing advocate for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Jesse responds quickly to phone and email contact with detailed and organized information regarding his match. Jesse is open to suggestions and goes above and beyond to expose Ricky to new experiences including teaching his Little to hunt, teaching him about sports and about volunteering efforts.”

Jesse loves telling a story about volunteering that took place when he was about to speak at a Big Brothers Big Sisters event. Prior to standing up in front of everyone, Jesse noticed that the normally confident and outgoing Ricky seemed to be struggling. His face was white, he was sweating and his breathing was labored. Jesse checked in with Ricky and reminded him that they had gone over the speech dozens of times and that Jesse trusted Ricky could do it. Jesse said that not only did Ricky get through the speech, he was a real natural. Jesse said his favorite moment was telling Ricky how proud he was of him.

Matching Mentors
Children and parents may hear about Big Brothers Big Sisters from their community. A teacher, a counselor, their church or a friend may mention something to them, or many of them see the TV commercials. Big Brothers Big Sisters has an interview and enrollment process in which the organization gets a good understanding of a child’s needs and preferences, taking into account personalities, likes, dislikes, age, background and location, all to help in planning the best suited mentor. But ultimately, the final decision is up to the child.

National research has shown that positive relationships with mentors in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program has a direct and measurable impact on children’s lives. By participating in the program, Little Brothers and Sisters are:

â€Â˘ more confident in their schoolwork performance
â€Â˘ 98.5% of students in program, advance to the next grade level
â€Â˘ able to get along better with their families
â€Â˘ 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs
â€Â˘ 27% less likely to begin using alcohol
â€Â˘ 52% less likely to skip school

The Children
The children in the organization come from many types of home environments and family structures. They are from different socio-economic levels, come from different ethnic backgrounds, and neighborhoods and schools from all across our community. their backgrounds and personalities are unique, but one common thread is that they all have a need for friendship with a caring adult.

How You Can Help
With many children waiting for a mentor, Big Brothers Big sisters can certainly use donations and they are always looking for anyone interested in becoming a mentor. on average, children who have been matched wait five months for caring, positive mentors to enter their lives.

If you are interested in having an agency representative share the Big Brothers Big sisters mission with your staff, your church or other organization, they are happy to present videos, audio-visual presentations, e-presentations and materials about Big Brothers Big sisters to your group.

Calling All Men
females tend to volunteer their time more often and at a greater rate than men. Most of the children waiting for a mentor are boys (about 65 percent) who could use a positive adult role model. Most of these boys are from female-headed households and have no influential males in their lives they can look up to.

Mentoring Can Change Lives
Mentoring relationships may take time to build trust, but the reward is remarkable. spending just a few hours a month with a child who needs an adult who is a steady and positive role model could help shape that child’s life forever. perhaps that child is at a crossroads in their life in which someone stepping in at a crucial moment could change the course for that child forever.

Will they make good choices or bad choices? Will they have a trusted confidant they can lean on for the tough questions? as a community, our children need us to be present in their lives, to spend quality time with them, to show them that we hear them and that we care. children with a Big Brother or Big sister show real differences in their personal and academic lives. they are more confident in their schoolwork performance, they get along better with their families and they’re 52% less likely to skip school. research shows that Big Brother Big sister mentoring works.

Start Something Big
your financial support helps provide programs and services in our community. it starts lots of things, like: recruiting new Big Brother and Big sister volunteers; covering the costs of background checks; while ensuring trained professionals match Littles to responsible Bigs; enabling ongoing supervision and relationship support for every Big, Little and Little’s family; and providing cultural and social activities to enrich the opportunities for children. you can donate your money or your time to help a child reach his or her potential. it might just be the start of something big.

To mentor or donate to Big Brothers Big Sisters, please visit or call (888) 887-BIGS.

Although not related to the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, if you’d like to learn more about resources or how to participate in National Mentoring Month in January 2015, please visit