What are ways our community can support our youth through mentoring?
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We, at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana, often meet people who simply aren’t sure if they know how to mentor or have what it takes to mentor. We appreciate this because it shows how thoughtful people are as they consider the opportunity to get involved.
They have questions, like: What if I don’t know what to do when we’re together? What if he doesn’t like me? What if I can’t make time? What if she’s really quiet? What if it’s harder than I expect? Does mentoring really work?
These are good questions. These are normal questions. The truth is every mentoring relationship is a little different because every child and every mentor are unique. Their strengths and their challenges vary. Their interests and personalities evolve over time. At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we provide training, ongoing support and coaching, and a myriad of activities, partnerships, and tickets to help our Bigs (Big Brothers/Sisters/Couples/Friends = mentors) make mentoring work for them and their Littles (Little Brothers/Sisters = youth).
What’s the same about every mentoring relationship is that success is found in the simple things. Showing up. Being there. Listening. Doing fun things together. Doing new things together. Learning together. Being silly together. Exploring. Encouraging. Cheering for your Little. High fiving. Maybe hitting a rough patch, but then showing up again. Being there again. Making sure that your Little One knows you care about him/her no matter what.
Those are the big things that matter – the little things that make mentoring work.
And, yes, high quality mentoring does work. We find that our Bigs and parents/caregivers do the best job of telling us what it looks like when mentoring works:
“The interesting thing to me is that I feel she grew in ways I did not expect. I was hoping that she would grow in her education and knowledge. I believe she grew more in her ability to relate to others, show compassion, and stand on her own. Those intangibles are really more important.” - Katrina, Big Sister
“She wants to go to college to become a doctor. Her grades have improved, and she is more motivated to do well. Her behavior also improved, and many of her teachers attributed that to the fact that she had a positive Big Sis.” - Emily, Big Sister
“Even taking my daughter to the library and helping her with her reading comprehension did a lot to help her. This pretty much worked since my daughter’s comprehension has gone up, and she is at the correct comprehension level now.” - Jean, mother of one Little Sister
“Helped my daughters with education, learn to have more respect, think positive, talk positive. I can see a light in their eyes that they know they can do something besides the stereotypes. They want to go far. They want to be a doctor or lawyer - they can do that.” - Jeremy, father of two Little Sisters
“[I] just am so grateful to BBBS for this wonderful family that has been in our lives and continues to be in our lives and will always be in our lives. This program is truly a wonderful gift. We owe it to BBBS. It sounds dramatic, but it is dramatic. Will really has the best friend outside of his blood family that he'll ever have. It’s powerful and wonderful and fun – just a fabulous, fabulous relationship.” - Liz, mother of one Little Brother
If you’re thinking about how you – as one person – can actually help make our community stronger, can actually help one child and one family achieve their potential, mentoring is a proven path – and it might be the right one for you to get involved, get in touch with us, and our team will help you explore possibilities and set you up for a successful experience. There are two ways to mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters – on your own or with a friend. Consider signing up to be a Big Brother or Big Sister, or with a significant other/friend as a Big Couple or Big Friend.
There are also other mentoring programs doing great work in Central Indiana, and you can find additional information on those options by visiting www.abetterhour.org
Beyond becoming a mentor yourself, there are also other ways to help:
Provide support and encouragement to someone you know who mentors a child or lead your workplace to support mentor-friendly practices.
Arrange for Big Brothers Big Sisters to present mentoring opportunities at your workplace, class, congregation, community organization, or other groups.
Share your mentoring story on social media and encourage others to get involved.
Consider hosting an activity for mentors and mentees, providing a discount to mentors and mentees when they are together, or donating tickets to local events.
Have you been wondering about how you can help change the life of a young person by becoming a mentor? What is holding you back? Are you currently involved in a mentoring relationship? Tell us about it! Share your thoughts in the comments below, and on social media using #AmGradIndy.
Darcey Palmer-Shultz is the CEO at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana (BBBSCI). For more than 40 years, BBBSCI has been providing children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported 1-to-1 mentoring relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.