Mentoring Works

Gary Wolsky, President/CEO The Village Family Service CenterThe Village’s Big Brothers Big Sisters program stretches back over 40 years and is a program of which I am immensely proud.
A few months ago, I received a report on a large scale evaluation assessing the impact of mentoring—which provides further evidence that Big Brothers Big Sisters is changing the lives of kids in our community. This study involved over 1,300 youth, many of whom had multiple risk factors for delinquency, school failure, teen pregnancy, and mental health problems—the same youth we work with every day in Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS).
When comparing youth who had similar challenges, the study found that youth with mentors showed improved social competence, attitudes towards school, and grades. The strongest findings were related to decreases in symptoms of depression—an especially noteworthy outcome given that nearly one in four youth in the study reported high levels of depressive symptoms before being matched with mentors.
“Depression has been linked to a host of short- and long-term problems for young people, including suicidal behavior, academic and social difficulties, and increased risk for substance abuse and teen pregnancy,” the researchers reported.
These findings on the positive impact of mentoring are similar to those from a study The Village did years ago in partnership with Dr. Dan Klenow at NDSU. Klenow looked specifically at our program over many, many years, and found that the BBBS matches produced long-term, sustainable, positive impact for kids and oftentimes led to relationships that remained life-long. At The Village, we take outcome measurements very seriously and remain committed to matching kids with adults who can help them develop relationships and other life skills necessary to grow into healthy adults.
While the idea of matching an adult with a child isn’t a complicated concept, the actual steps our staff takes to make safe and valuable matches is very involved and time-consuming. One of the most challenging aspects of the program is finding the volunteers. Right now we have 47 boys and seven girls on the waiting list for a Big Brother or Big Sister, and I ask that you volunteer as a mentor.
Beyond making a difference in the life of one of these 54 kids, you will also benefit. Many mentors have said having a Little Brother or Little Sister was one of the most enjoyable and rewarding things they have ever done.
I was a Big Brother in our school-based program a couple years ago, and it was great fun to experience the world through my Little Brother’s eyes. We didn’t do much…ate lunch together, played cards, worked on his homework…but his teacher said he was always excited when it was Monday—because that was the day I visited him each week. His excitement had nothing to do with me—it was all about someone showing up to spend an hour just with him!
Please call me at 701-451-4929 to learn more about how you, too, can show up for a child and experience this fabulous program.
The opinions expressed in this column are strictly those of The Village Family Service Center CEO. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization, staff, or boards of directors.

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