January is National Mentoring Month, and it’s the perfect time to recognize the superstars of mentoring — our donors as well as the volunteers in our program, called “Bigs,” who spend time helping kids (called “Littles”).
Former Little Brother Anwar Richardson enrolled in Big Brothers Big Sisters here in our community. Anwar recalls that he was tough and rebellious growing up. When he was first matched with his Big Brother, Derrick Jackson, he didn’t listen and resisted his Big Brother’s advice. But over time, their relationship grew stronger.
Now 30 years later, Anwar and Derrick are still connected. Anwar continues to look up to his Big Brother and even followed in his footsteps: Derrick is a former sports writer and now an award-winning columnist for the Boston Globe. Anwar, a former Tampa Tribune sports reporter, is a successful sports writer for Yahoo! NFL.
Anwar’s story is just one example of the thousands of children we serve each year. These children are paired with Bigs, ordinary people in regular professions who have something in common: a desire to help kids succeed. And what we have learned from former Littles is that to them, their Bigs were “superstars.” National Mentoring month is a great time to say thank you, to all of our former and current volunteer Bigs.
Longstanding independent research and Big Brothers Big Sisters Youth Outcomes Survey™ (YOS) data find children enrolled in our program improve academically and socially. For example, according to the latest YOS data, 94 percent of Littles in our program maintained or improved in their attitudes toward risky behaviors; 88 percent maintained or improved in parental trust; and 83 percent maintained or improved in scholastic competence.
Big Brothers Big Sisters has developed the gold standard of mentoring over the past 100 plus years with a focus on evidence-based outcomes as well as the safety and well-being of both the children and volunteers enrolled in our program. However, there are some realities to the work of this incredible organization as we consider the more than 800 children in our community on our waiting lists for a Big.
Part of the challenge is money: Each of our Big/Little matches is professionally supported and costs more than $1,000 a year. However, the results are truly priceless — happy, healthy, confident and successful children who had previously been at risk for failure.
During National Mentoring Month, it’s a great time for you to join the ranks of our superstars, by volunteering or donating today at www.bbbs.org.
Rolston is the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas County, and Koch is president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay.