Mentors needed for kids

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 21, 2000

Staff Writer

There’s an old Christmas song entitled "Santa, Bring Me a Baby Brother."

But, here in Troy, there are some boys and girls looking for a big brother or sister and they want it before Christmas.

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Big Brother Big Sisters of Pike County is looking to fulfill those wishes by providing mentors to local children who need some extra attention.

Sandra Butler, coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pike County, said, during her years working for the Department of Human Resources, she saw children who "came from terrible poverty and abuse" and come out on top.

The difference, she said, was the one person who served as a role model and that’s where Big Brothers Big Sisters come into play.

"It’s a wonderful program," Butler said. "I don’t know who gets the most out of it, the big or the little."

Butler said the rewarding thing is being "a friend to a child who might not have anyone."

Tennie Jarrell has worked with children for more than 25 years and continues that work through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

The only problem is there are not enough big brothers and big sisters.

Jarrell said there are a number of children expecting to have a Big Brother or Sister in the near future and she has no volunteers to fulfill those wishes.

There eight teen boys waiting for a community-based match, which involves spending only four hours a week with a child.

One 8-year-old boy wants to be a lawyer or scientist when he grows up, loves to read. But, most of his life, he’s known fear because of gang-related threats on his family made before they moved here last year. He’s grown up in violence and needs someone who can teach him every situation doesn’t have to involve violence, Jarrell said.

There is a 15-year-old boy with a low self-esteem that needs a friend.

And, there is another boy who wants an artistic Big Brother with whom he can share a love for art.

"There are many opportunities to make a difference," Jarrell said.

Having a one-on-one mentoring relationship could make all the difference in those boys’ lives.

"What young males need are appropriate male role models," Jarrell said. "The need for the male role model is really there."

In 1999, Pike County ranked 52 out of 67 counties in child well-being; over 20 percent of the youth lived in poverty and the local juvenile crime rate has increased.

"We can sit here in Pike County and say, ‘we don’t have these problems,’ but we do," Jarrell said, adding one way to combat the problem is through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

For those who want to help, but don’t think they have the time, an hour each week is all it takes to participate in the school-based program.

Since every child needs a role model, Big Brothers Big Sisters have teamed up with the Troy City Schools and created a prevention-oriented program to help elementary and middle school students build self-worth through caring relationships with adults.

Jarrell and Butler said the School-Based Mentoring program that started in February has already proven to be successful and some wonderful bonds have developed.

Volunteers are matched with children according to the mentor’s strengths and experience, the child’s needs and mutual interests and compatibility.

Jarrell and Butler said the program works.

According to a research study that took place over 18 months and involved 959 boys and girls in eight states, the Little Brothers and Little Sisters were:

· 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs.

· 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol.

· 52 percent less likely to skip school.

· 37 percent less likely to skip a class.

· more confident of their performance in schoolwork.

· one-third less likely to hit someone.

· getting along better with their families.

For information about being a Big Brother or Big Sister, call Jarrell or Butler at 670-3387. Their offices are located in the basement of the Trojan Center on George Wallace Drive, behind Sonic.

The program also needs money to help pay for background checks of potential big brothers and big sisters, so Butler and Jarrell are making a plea for civic organizations to help in that way, as well.