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About the program: Big Brothers Big Sisters is a one-to-one mentoring program that pairs an at-risk youth with a teen or adult mentor from the community.

National Institute of Justice Rating: Effective

The mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters is to “provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever,” according to the organization’s website.

For more than 100 years the organization has done just that and has grown and spawned a host of local and regional chapters, including Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region, which covers Cumberland, Dauphin and several Midstate counties.

At-risk youths between 6 and 18 years old are matched with teen or adult mentors as a way to provide positive adult contact aimed at reducing negative behaviors and encouraging positive ones, according to the National Institute of Justice.

Adult mentors, referred to as “Bigs,” spend roughly three to five hours a week two to three times a month with their youth mentees, referred to as “Littles,” in the community based program, according to the National Institute of Justice.

Big Brothers Big Sisters also has a school-based program that brings bigs and littles together regularly within the littles’s school.

Several police departments in Cumberland County, including Carlisle and Mechanicsburg police, recently joined the school-based Bigs in Blue program.

In the community-based program bigs spend time with littles doing activities that can range from day-to-day activities of going shopping or eating at a restaurant to special activities like going for a hike or sporting event, according to the National Institute of Justice.

The program has been rated as effective by the National Institute of Justice and has been shown to significantly reduce drug and alcohol use, reduce antisocial behavior and increase performance in school, according to the National Institute of Justice.

A study published in 2000 found that students in the Big Brothers Big Sisters community-based program were nearly half as likely as their peers to initiate drug use, roughly 27 percent less likely use alcohol and more than 30 percent less likely to have struck another student, according to the National Institute of Justice.

Littles involved in the community based program also had better grades than their peers, missed fewer days in school and reported feeling more competent about their school work, the study found.

The program costs roughly $1,000 per youth for the nonprofit organization to operate, according to the National Institute of Justice.

More than 400 Big Brothers and Big Sisters agencies nationwide serve more than 250,000 youths annually, the National Institute of Justice reported.

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Email Joshua Vaughn at jvaughn@cumberlink.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Sentinel_Vaughn.

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