Ice skates. Water slides. Library time. I found myself doing the simple things in life again that I had forgotten were so much fun. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches taste really good on a picnic. Hot chocolate is much better with marshmallows and whip cream. The rebirth of my favorite childhood memories came with a special gift… my Little Sister.
I had always wanted to be a mentor to a young girl in need and I reached out to the wonderful, century-old organization Big Brothers Big Sisters. I was a mother of four grown boys and found myself with time on my hands and a desire to give back to my community. When I was matched with my Little Sister, I was nervous and worried! “Am I too old? Am I cool enough? Will she like me? What will we do together?” I laugh now when I think about it. Thankfully the organization is specifically trained to create wonderful matches, and they picked the perfect one for me.
The mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters is to create and support relationships that provide consistent, positive, one-to-one interaction between a child and an adult volunteer who will be an advisor and friend
on the journey from childhood to adulthood. When an adult shows interest in and concern for the child, a relationship is built on trust that allows the child to identify with the adult. Children, in order to reach their
fullest potential, need the influence of mature, responsible adults during their formative years.
Mentorship is a great relationship for both the adult and the child. A child benefits from the ongoing relationship of learning, dialogue, and challenge. Statistics show that 56% of children that are matched with a mentor report an increase in their self-confidence or self-worth. Another 69% have an increase in scholastic competence and/or their outlook toward school and academic performance. Finally, 45% are reporting a difference in their level of compassion or caring for others.
Adults benefit, too! Reverse mentoring is when adults who mentor reap the benefits of connecting to a younger generation. When adults connect with the youth in the community, they bridge a gap of understanding, awareness, and influence with another generation. The younger generation is the
future and, in short order, will be part of the present. Adults must continue to look to the children and young adults to gain understanding in order to build engaging and successful relationships that create the
strong community in which we live!
Volunteering is also a great vehicle for rediscovering something that adults are really good at. It is also never too late to learn a new skill and a Little Brother or Little Sister may introduce you to a new passion.
Volunteering connects you to the community that at times we all take for granted. It provides a chance to give back to society some of the benefits that society gives you. Because volunteering is your choice, it
allows you to express a sense of achievement and motivation, which ultimately comes from your desire and enthusiasm to help. Put simply: it makes you feel great!
Big Brothers Big Sisters has grown and changed over the years and now there are several additional ways for you to get involved whether you have some free time, like I did, or you have a busy schedule that you already juggle.
*School-Based Mentoring takes place once a week utilizing the children’s school.
*Mentors Plus can take place in school but allows the match to meet outside the school once a month.
*Community-Based Mentoring takes place once a week doing a variety of fun things within the community.
As the new Merrill Office Coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northcentral Wisconsin, I find that the most rewarding part of my job is introducing a child and mentor for the first time. It is a priceless moment when I get to see the looks on their faces. The most challenging part of my job is enrolling new and excited children into our program, knowing I am adding them to a current list of 46 waiting children. When I interview children there is so much enthusiasm in their voices when they hear a mentor is going to meet with them once a week. They all ask, “When do I get to meet my Big Brother or Big Sister?” I assure them that I am working hard to find them the perfect match.
I work with a very devoted staff at Merrill High School and many outstanding high school volunteers. I could not do my job without the commitment and integrity of the entire Merrill School District. They have
welcomed me into their schools and have worked diligently to help me facilitate matches.
My name is Jane Smith and I am asking you to consider the opportunity to reward a child and to reward yourself by becoming a Big Sister or Big Brother and devoting just one hour a week, to doing the things you used to love doing! Share those times with a child and rekindle those memories.
Help a child to grow in confidence, knowledge, and self-worth, while you learn about a different generation, connecting theirs to yours. I look forward to your call and to meeting more of the wonderful people of the Merrill community!
Plus, you can also help our cause by joining us for Bowl for Kids’ Sake 2014 at Les & Jims Lincoln Lanes on March 1. Visit our event website for details and to pre-register your team: BowlForKidsMerrill.com.
Jane Smith is the Office Coordinator and Match Support Specialist for the Merrill branch of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northcentral Wisconsin, which offers staff-supported one-to-one mentoring services for children facing adversity. To volunteer or make a donation, please call Jane at 715-536-4594 ext. 18038 or visit bbbsncw.org.