Caring role models make a real difference for children
Editor's note: This is the next in a series of articles highlighting the agencies that receive funding from United Way of Ellis County.
Big Brothers Big Sisters has been the leader in mentoring children for more than a century, with proven success in creating positive friendships that benefits not only children, but volunteers, families, neighborhoods and the entire community.
The program provides one-on-one volunteer mentors (Big Brothers, Big Sisters, couples and families) for children (Little Brothers and Sisters) who are in need of strong positive role models in their lives. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ellis County began in Hays in 2000 as a way to help children ages 5 to 17, who were primarily from single-parent households and who faced other challenges in their lives, by giving them the additional support of a positive, caring role model.
At that time, there were no other mentoring programs in Ellis County and Big Brothers Big Sisters was chosen because studies showed youth matched with caring adult Big Brothers or Sisters were less likely to be arrested, less likely to skip school, less likely to engage in violent confrontations, and less likely to initiate drug use. The program also serves children who are simply struggling with school, are an only child, or even a male child living with a mother and several sisters, thus needing a male influence in their lives. The agency also accepts any child referred by a teacher who believes the child would benefit by having a Big Brother or Sister. Each child has their own story and no matter their circumstances, all have a need for a positive adult role model in their lives.
Big Brothers Big Sisters made its first match in November 2000 and since then has served more than 1,000 kids in Ellis County. The agency strives to make long-lasting, quality matches that will enable the children to grow into productive members of society. Each mentor has the opportunity to be matched with a Little Brother or Sister in a variety of programs tailored to suit their own interests and schedules. In addition to the traditional Community Based Program, the volunteer has the choice of mentoring in our school-based program, faith-based program or outdoor mentoring program.
No matter the program in which they are matched, our volunteers spend 30 minutes to a couple of hours per week with their Little Brother or Sister eating lunch at school, doing homework, shooting hoops in the park, baking cookies, fishing, biking or just spending time together.
Many of our volunteers have seen first-hand what research shows: If a child has a positive role model in their lives, they have a greater chance of succeeding in life. Simply put, it works.
Of children matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister, results include:
* 89 percent show an improvement in grades
* 64 percent develop more positive attitudes
* 51 percent improve relationships with adults
* 81 percent improve self confidence
All programs through Big Brothers Big Sisters are offered at no cost to volunteers, children and families. Because Big Brothers Big Sisters is not a federally funded program, it depends on the community to recognize the need and accept the challenge to become proactive about funding the program for the sustainability of their communities' children's futures. We are also very fortunate to be a respected United Way of Ellis County agency.
Perhaps you might have something to offer. Time to volunteer? A financial contribution? Or simply to share the information you have just read here? No matter the size or type, your involvement can have a profound impact on a child's life. Your contribution, either monetary or a gift of your time, will help us to continue giving what every child deserves -- a chance.