A recent Florida campaign called Real Men Mentor brought to light a major issue affecting Big Brothers Big Sisters organizations around the nation. Apparently, men make up less than 40 percent of the mentor pool, yet more than 50 percent of the children served by the organization are young boys.
The particular chapter in Florida that started the campaign has nearly 300 young boys hoping to be paired with a male mentor. While transformation can still happen with Little Brothers who are connected to Big Sisters, many young men need a reliable, stable male mentor in their lives.
Nationally, about 70 percent of children awaiting matches are boys. Research shows that a positive male role model can make a major difference in a young boy’s life by recognizing his potential and encouraging him to follow a path toward success in both school and the real world.
Becoming a Big Brother requires only a few hours a couple of times each month, but that small amount of time can have an immeasurable impact on another person’s life. Individuals can learn more about the process of becoming a mentor online at BBBS.org or by contacting a local branch of the organization.
More than half of the young people in Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast’s mentoring program are young men, but only 39 percent of the nonprofit organization’s volunteers are male. This disparity has led the organization to start a recruitment drive called 100 Men in 100 Days, through which it hopes to increase the number of male mentors in its programs.
When the drive began, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast had 286 boys in need of a mentor. To help fill the gap, it began highlighting ways in which male mentors could serve. Community-based mentors meet with Littles two times every month for an activity both Big and Little find enjoyable. School-based mentors take one hour a week to meet with their Littles at school. In addition, sports buddies mentor their Littles twice a month, either by watching a sport or by playing one with them.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast also arranges other ways for people to get involved. Those who want to help but can’t volunteer themselves can connect the organization with others via community groups like churches and businesses or through social media. They can also sign up for newsletters and forward them or encourage others to call 1-855-501-BIGS, where people can learn more about volunteering.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast, which Angela Melvin serves as community resource director for Lee County, Florida, maintains a number of school- and community-based mentoring programs. The nonprofit begins by matching children between the ages of 6 and 18 with adult volunteers. Most relationships between Bigs, the adult mentors, and Littles, their mentees, begin in the community, but the school-based programs are important as well.
Both sets of programs aim to match children with positive role models, forming relationships that make kids less likely to engage in poor choices like skipping school or using alcohol or illegal drugs. Community programs take a variety of forms, ranging from activities like walking through a park or attending a museum to hanging out and listening to music or talking. Bigs meet their Littles for community programs based upon whatever schedule suits them both, whether that means on weekends or in the evenings.
School-based programs are only a little more structured. With the support of teachers, Bigs meet their Littles either on the playground or in the classroom. The meetings may involve help with homework or school-related activities like reading, but Bigs and Littles also have fun playing basketball and going on playground outings. Regardless of the activity, the goal is the same: help kids develop by providing inspiration and guidance.
In addition to providing character-education curricula for students in grades 3 through 12, the Uncommon Friends Foundation of Fort Myers, Florida, supports education by administering a number of scholarships. Amounts awarded range from a few hundred dollars to two years of prepaid tuition at a state college. The scholarships include the following:
The Lee County Bar Association Scholarship
Worth $1,000, the Lee County Bar Association Scholarship goes to a student who has entered a program that will lead to a law degree at a Florida college or university. It is awarded in recognition of achievements in high school as well as excellence in mock trial competition.
The Florida Prepaid College Foundation Scholarship
In cooperation with the Florida Prepaid College Foundation, Uncommon Friends offers a two-year scholarship that pays tuition and local fees. The scholarships are awarded to promising ninth-grade students who meet contractual obligations in terms of academic performance, social criteria, and more.
The Future Teacher Scholarship
Students who have matriculated in a program that will lead to an education degree are eligible for Uncommon Friends’ Future Teacher Scholarship, an award of $400.
For full details, or to see the rest of Uncommon Friends’ scholarship opportunities, visit http://www.uncommonfriends.org.
At Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast in Lee County (BBBS), volunteer mentors have a chance to make a significant positive impact on the lives of at-risk children and teenagers. More than 70 percent of all children waiting for a Big Brother are boys, but only 30 percent of volunteer inquiries come from men. Consequently, BBBS frequently encourages men of all ages to consider taking on a Little.
For just a few hours of volunteer work per month, a Big Brother can be a trusted friend and role model. Parents in the area often seek the support of BBBS mentors who can help their sons make healthy life choices and learn how to succeed in the classroom. Although BBBS welcomes all Big Brothers to its ranks, it has expressed a particular need for men of color to mentor Hispanic and African-American boys, which represent the majority of children served.