Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region is encouraging everyone to thank their mentor this month.
January was National Mentoring Month, and it serves as a reminder to recognize the importance of adult mentors. However, every month brings opportunity to shed light on the importance of mentoring, and to recognize mentors and role models in our lives.
According to the National Mentoring Partnership, one in three young people will grow up without a mentor. Big Brothers Big Sisters sees first-hand the significant impact that a mentor has in a child’s life. The agency serves over 700 children annually across Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon and Perry counties. Staff match each child, “littles,” in the program with a big brother or sister, who becomes their friend and mentor.
Advice given by a friend can have more influence than advice from a parent. Youth behavior can be driven by a wish for peer approval as a way to gain self-acceptance. Drugs that have a higher prevalence and early initiation, such as alcohol and marijuana, can put young people at a higher risk of addiction to these substances, as well as priming their brains for addiction to other drugs. According to the 2017 Pennsylvania Youth Survey, 66 percent of high school seniors in the state have tried alcohol and 38 percent have tried marijuana.
The beauty of having an adult mentor is mentors are friends who have greater experience and maturity than the child’s peers. Bigs help their little build self-confidence, promote social responsibility, and develop sound decision-making skills. In 2018, bigs and littles picked pumpkins, played basketball, hiked, attended concerts, explored STEM careers and volunteered at local shelters. Together, the agency, bigs and families work to help children explore their full potential.
Local littles report better relationships with parents and friends, more confidence in school and healthy attitudes about drug and alcohol use.
- 64 percent are more comfortable with their peers
- 70 percent expect to graduate from college
- 94 percent have built a foundation of trust with an adult, and
- 98 percent avoid drugs and alcohol
The impact of a mentor can last a lifetime, especially as littles grow from the elementary school playground to preparing for adulthood in high school. Big/little friendships can extend far past the program into adulthood. While staff don’t always hear from the littles once they graduate from the program, parents often share their children’s successes.
One parent who shared her son’s experience at the agency, described him, as “a troubled young man,” and explained “Daniel (his big) often just dropped by to talk to Michael.”
“Michael knew that he could call and depend on Daniel any time (day or night),” his mom said. “I am writing this through tears, because I don’t think my son would’ve made it out of his teenage years without this family. He was so defiant, but Daniel often helped him calm down and rethink things.”
At 23 years old, Michael and his “big brother” still make time for each other.
National Mentoring Month might be over, but the needs of our children last all year. Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region is extending this invitation to you – let your mentor, role model or guide know how much they mean to you. A simple “thank you” can mean the world to someone and is a gift you can give to the person that has meant the world to you.
You can learn more about becoming a big or registering your child to be a little at our website www.capbigs.org. You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Krystina Shultz is the marketing and events manager for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region and is a guest writer for the Cumberland-Perry Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition.
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