Mentoring helps support children, families

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Rochester makes meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”), ages 8 to 16, in Monroe, Yates, Wayne, and the Ontario counties. We develop positive relationships that have a direct and lasting effect on the lives of young people. We understand that everyone benefits from having positive role models in their lives. The children who are paired with mentors through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program begin one-to-one relationships that are built on trust and friendship that can blossom into a future of unlimited potential.

Today’s society brings new challenges to youth. They are witness to violence or trauma in their communities or directly in their households; they have experienced disrupted family life; understand and experience family incarceration or the events leading up to it; been exposed to drug and/or alcohol abuse; and have often had involvement with social services. Youths benefit from both family and external support systems that can help them achieve their goals and dreams. Big Brothers Big Sisters’ vision is that all children achieve success and through a partnership between parents/guardians, volunteers, and others in the community big changes are being made one Little at a time.

Research shows that the positive impact of mentoring on the lives of children matched with a mentor creates a community of caring. Helping children achieve success in school, avoid risky behaviors, improve their educational success, and increase their self-confidence. That’s why our professional staff members, supporters, families, and advocates support and encourage the relationships between Bigs and Littles. As a support to parents, Bigs help teach their Littles positive choices and help them make good decisions. They are role models, rewarded with friendship, being a part of the child successes, affection and the opportunity to make a positive impact in a youth’s life.

Littles such as Alicia (who is now 12 years old) is being raised by her single grandmother, Martha, who works nights to support Alicia and her siblings. Martha brought Alicia to BBBS because she was worried about Alicia’s choices feared these choices would become habitual. Before coming to live with her grandmother, Alicia had immense adversities in her life. Alicia was struggling with school, where she was bullied and regularly was suspended. As the oldest child, Alicia often helped care for siblings and thus created a tough exterior that made it difficult for outsiders to bypass. Alicia was matched with “Big Sister” Michelle. They quickly bonded over their shared love for basketball. As a match, they attended several basketball games and discovered many other common interests. Although initially shy, Alicia now opens up to Michelle, and they have developed rapport.

As her friendship with Michelle has grown, Alicia has made extraordinary behavioral and educational gains. Martha shared that this past school year, Alicia achieved her best grades and has made significant improvements both at home and school. Martha credits this improvement directly to the consistent support given to the family by Big Brothers Big Sisters the big sister’s positive involvement in Alicia’s life.

Rosario is program manager for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Rochester.

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