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Letter to the Editor : Sharon Mockridge, Community Educator

1/5/2012

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Illinois, a program of the FHN Family Counseling Center, is celebrating National Mentoring Month this January in honor of all who make up their successful village/community – parents, volunteers, staffers and donors who work together to make a mentoring match strong, enduring and successful.

Highly regarded studies show long-term, one-to-one, staff-supported volunteer mentoring works. Behind every successful mentoring match is a team of selfless, dedicated believers. This includes volunteers who make time to commit to letting a child know how special he or she is, but it also includes the parent or guardian, often a single mom or grandmother who courageously seeks support to give her child every opportunity to succeed. Then there's the staff person, a professional who uses facts from interviews, references, experience and intuition to match the right child and family with the right volunteer. And behind every relationship are the donors, whose financial resources make it possible for our mentors, mentees and parents to get the ongoing support, guidance and resources that help them establish and maintain the kind of dialogue, communication and understanding that are behind Big Brothers Big Sisters' successful long-term one-to-one mentoring relationships.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Illinois services nearly 100 children who are enrolled in our programs in Stephenson and Jo Daviess Counties. They are youth who because of our programs – because of our mentoring village/community – are more likely than their peers to beat the odds. We hold ourselves accountable for helping children achieve in school; avoid risky and delinquent behaviors; and have higher self-esteem and aspirations. Our programs are based on a data-proven model focused on creating and sustaining strong and long mentoring matches. Longstanding research by Public Private Ventures, a national nonprofit research and program development organization, found that after 18 months of spending time with their Bigs, the Little Brothers and Little Sisters, when compared to those children not in the program, are:

  • 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs
  • 27% less likely to begin using alcohol
  • 52% less likely to skip school
  • 37% less likely to skip a class
  • 33% less likely to hit someone

If you're interested in becoming a mentor, we provide screening, matching and long-term support for our "Bigs," "Littles" and their families. Bigs spend from 4-8 hours a month with their Littles taking part in activities from sports to schoolwork to just hanging out and talking. Big Brothers Big Sisters is always in search of interested adults to be mentors. Now is the time to commit to helping a youth in our community.

If you cannot be a mentor, you can still help. Big Brothers Big Sisters is the nation's largest donor-supported network of long-term mentors. Donor funding makes it possible for us to make the best matches for our Littles and help sustain those matches over time. Donations of all sizes help.

This month, Big Brothers Big Sisters honors all of these special people. We recognize our volunteers for their service. We thank our parents and guardians for their trust and commitment to their children. We pay tribute to our staff, and we show gratitude to our donors. Thank you for being a part of our mentoring village/community, and for working together to help Stephenson and Jo Daviess counties' children.

Editor's Note: Learn how you can be a part of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Illinois, a program of FHN's Family Counseling Center, by calling 815-599-7344.