By Todd Travis
Men to Mentors initiative
On Sept. 10, Big Brothers Big Sisters began a campaign, “Men to Mentors” with a goal to find 75 male mentors in 75 days. As they approach the time span’s end, they are asking for one more big push from Johnson County residents to fulfill that need. Big Brothers Big Sisters is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth. Right now the need in Johnson County is greatest for male mentors, since 87% of the kids waiting are boys – that translates to more than 70 boys currently waiting for a mentor.
Facing recent challenges
According to the organization, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana (BBBSCI) has experienced an unprecedented increase in the number of youths asking for support from their program since 2020. At the same time, the number of new volunteers coming into the program dropped drastically in 2020 and has been gradually improving since then. These two factors created the longest waitlist BBBSCI has ever seen. There are more kids waiting than ever before, and the wait times have grown as well. This has led to an average wait time of around two years. Because BBBSCI only matches volunteers with youth who live within 20 minutes of where they live or work, this is a challenge that can only be overcome by the Johnson County community.
Southside local rallying for help
Meaghan Rysdale, a Southside resident and owner of Hoosier Academic Coaching, is currently serving as a mentor and joining in the effort to help fill this need.
“This organization is near and dear to my heart as I currently mentor a young child who comes from a difficult situation, like many of these children (household income less than $15k, mom or dad in and out of prison, siblings and half siblings in and out of group homes, DCS on speed dial with regular interventions, living with relatives, etc.),” Rysdale mentioned.
“Oftentimes the organization gets free tickets to things that matches can do when they meet. Whether we could promote the 75+ male matches or get local businesses to help donate to this organization – any boost in involvement would be amazing,” Rysdale added.
Impact of BBBSCI
To show the positive impact BBBSCI has on the mentees, Charles Stringer, volunteer outreach and engagement coordinator, shared some statistics related to the “littles” who are being mentored:
-81% of the kids either started out with good grades and kept them all year or had bad grades and ended the year with good grades.
-85% had positive educational expectations throughout the year.
-93% rated highly on the avoidance of risky behaviors by the end of the year.
-98% avoided the juvenile justice system or contact with police in general.
-89% ended the year rating highly in social competence.
-89% ended the year rating highly in emotional regulation.
-92% students graduated high school, as opposed to 86% statewide.
“Those stats are so far above the averages that you would see otherwise,” commented Stringer.
The impact made on these children comes from consistent interaction from someone who cares and supports these young ones.
“A good example is a big and a little that I know who go to get ice cream together twice a month. On the outside looking in it doesn’t look like a big deal. But the simple act of getting ice cream allows for space where they both can talk authentically and the little knows that she is supported. It becomes a transformative experience where the little knows they are talking with someone they trust and can count on,” Stringer shared.
“At the core of what we do as mentors, is providing simple day-to-day affirmations. Things like, ‘I’m here for you and the things you’re going through matter’ and ‘I think that your experience is important’ are what actually make the big differences,” he continued.
If you want to join and help Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana visit: bebigforkids.org/men-to-mentors/