Caring Adults Are Helping At Risk Youth Succeed!
Some children do not get the support they need to be successful. Not all children have that positive role model in their lives that will help them grow. Without proper guidance some of these children will fall behind and many will grow up lacking confidence. United Way of Jackson County supports Big’s in Schools, a site based mentoring program with Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Jackson County. This one to one type of mentorship is helping at risk youth in the Jackson area meet their most basic developmental needs. Professionals are carefully paired with a child with similar interests. They meet once a week for about an hour at the child’s school. Their relationship is supported and monitored by BBBS. The Big and Little do homework together, they read, play, have lunch together or whatever else they can do but most importantly…they talk. At risk youth are getting one on one attention from a caring adult. Children who are mentored in the Big’s in Schools program are less likely to use drugs, have better school attendance and performance, have a higher level of self-confidence and have a better attitude at home and at school.
Here is just one example of impact that is being made each and every day with this type of site based mentorship…
Glenn Barba and his Little Brother, Austin, appeared to be off to a great start to their match at McCulloch Academy in January, 2009. Glenn was a VP at Consumers Energy, and Austin was a second grader at the time of their match. They are both somewhat on the quiet side with a lot of caring and patience in their natures. They seemed to find some activities (games and craft projects) that they both enjoyed in the early months of their match. However, there was a small cloud on the horizon that Glenn called to my attention in May. He felt that he was having difficulty engaging Austin’s attention during their meetings. Austin himself indicated that he was also pulling away from the match. None of us could really pinpoint the root of the barrier between them. At this point, I took a look at Austin’s initial interview to become a Little Brother. Austin had indicated that he had a very strong interest in trucks and car washes – a common interest for a second grader. I told Glenn about Austin’s interest and suggested that might be a way to make a stronger connection with his Little. Glenn took that idea and ran with it – to the max! Only days later, Glenn had arranged a field trip to visit Consumer’s Jackson Service Center on Parnall Rd. I received a portfolio of photos of a beaming Austin with many Consumer’s employees, wearing his safety glasses, riding and examining all manner of vehicles, and in earnest conversation with Service Center employees as they explained their work to him. I wouldn’t claim that one field trip changed Austin’s life forever because the real “magic” of our program is the long-term commitment that the Big, the Little and the family make to the success of their relationship and to the future success of our Littles. But that field trip was a turning point in this relationship because Glenn cared enough to try to figure out what was going to light the spark that he knew was in Austin all the time.
Austin is now a 7th grader at the Middle School at Parkside. Over the intervening years, he and Glenn have found many more activities and interests that they share. Austin is currently taking golfing lessons and hoping to give Glenn’s game a challenge in the future. Their families have developed close relationships with one another. The bond between these two “brothers” and their families is a strong and enduring one.