By Jessica Whitney
Big Brothers Big Sisters Needs More Volunteers
Have you ever considered becoming a mentor or have charitable work on your New Year’s Resolution list? One Valley non-profit is eagerly seeking more volunteers to meet the needs of young people across Maricopa County. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Arizona (BBBSAZ) is putting out a call to all Arizona males to step up and become a Big Brother to a young boy. While the non-profit encourages people of all genders and ages 18+ to apply, the list for young boys to be matched has grown considerably.
The mission of BBBSAZ is to create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth. The organization operates under the belief that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed and thrive in life; that each child comes to them full of potential. Big Brothers Big Sisters makes meaningful, monitored Matches between adult volunteers and children ages six through eighteen. These relationships have a direct and lasting effect on the lives of young people.
Youth mentorship programs, such as BBBSAZ, have a significant impact on the lives of young people. The benefits of youth mentorship are many, and include improved academic performance, increased self-esteem, and reduced involvement in risky behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse. Adult mentors are in place to provide guidance, support, and positive role modeling, which can help to steer young people away from negative influences and towards more positive ones.
One of the most significant benefits of youth mentorship is the improvement in academic performance. Research conducted by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America shows that youth enrolled in the mentorship programs are more likely than their peers to improve their grades, have better attendance in school, and graduate from high school.
Another benefit of mentorship is the increase in self-esteem and self-worth. Mentors can help their mentees develop a sense of identity, set goals, and build confidence in their abilities. This can have a positive impact on their mental and emotional well-being and help them to make better decisions in the future.
Male Mentors Needed
Currently, throughout the Valley, BBBSAZ has a waitlist of 200 youth “Littles”. 163 of the youth on the waitlist are boys. The current ‘Be Bold Be Big’ campaign urges potential male mentors, “Bigs” to step up and support local youth through one-to-one mentoring. The commitment is meeting up with a mentee just 2-4 times per month for a duration of one year. Aside from the outcomes proven for youth in the program, mentoring can be immensely rewarding for the role model and is a great way of giving back to the Arizona community.
While one-to-one mentoring is at the core of the BBBSAZ model, there is also the option to be matched with a Little as a couple or even as a family. Boys who are ready to be matched to a mentor may often face long wait times. These alternative matches are a great way for a boy to enjoy new activities and get the benefit of a positive male role model. This can be an especially rich experience for a boy who is living with a non-parent guardian or who may not have siblings or cousins close to his age.
BBBSAZ offers options to fit all schedules. In the Site-based mentoring program, Bigs and Littles meet up at a partner site, either at an elementary school during the child’s lunch break or at a youth center after school, or on the weekends. A BBBSAZ Program Specialist will be at the site on designated days to facilitate activities and provide support for each match. Facilitated activities at some sites have included slime making, vision board collaging, games focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), and trivia.
Community-based mentoring is the more well-known option. In this scenario, Matches spend time together in the community, typically outside of the school or organization. The Big and Little will plan activities together based on common likes and interests. Many BBBSAZ supporters provide free and low-cost activities for Matches. It is not uncommon for a Big to receive tickets to take their Little to a sporting event, concert or museum. These unique opportunities can help expand the Little’s perspective. But truly, the activity is not what matters most. The conversations that Bigs have with their Littles and the quality of the relationship built with their Little while doing ordinary things – such as taking a bike ride, washing a car, walking a dog, etc. – will have a far greater impact on the child than expensive or elaborate activities will.
Steps to Become a Big
Regardless of which program you choose, BBBSAZ will provide help and support every step of the way. Step one is to attend a Volunteer Information Session. This is a 40-minute live webinar that provides all of the info you need to get started. Visit bbbsaz.org/bebold to select a date and time that fits your schedule.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona programming has a significant and positive impact on the lives of young people. You can make a real difference in the life of a young person and help to shape their future in a positive way. Learn more about BBBSAZ or how to get involved at www.bbbsaz.org/bebold.
Enroll a Child
Could your Little one use a Big? It all starts with the right role models. And Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona is the place to start a relationship with one. To get more information about enrolling your child with Big Brothers Big Sister, please visit bbbsaz.org/enroll.
Jessica Whitney, Vice President of Development and Marketing, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona