Spending just a few hours a week with a young person in need of a mentor can make a differnce in that child’s life.
JD Engelhardt of Big Brothers Big Sisters Dane County often sees this firsthand.
JD spoke to the Waunakee Rotary Club Feb. 28 about the organization and the way its mentors often motivate young people to achieve.
Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mission is “to defend the potential of our youth by providing professionally supported one-to-one mentoring relationships that change their lives for better.”
Currently, 230 Dane County youths, including 10 in Waunakee, are looking for a caring adult mentor to provide positive support. Some are from single-parent families; in other families, one parent may be deployed.
Those who wish to be a big brother or sister can contact JD, then fill out an application. Big Brothers Big Sisters learns of the mentors’ interests and tries to match them based on the “littles’” interests, JD said.
Young people have a wide range of hobbies; one wanted to learn about taxidermy, and a mentor with that skill was found.
“Things you’re interested in are the things kids are interested in,” JD said.
Afterwards, mentors come in for an orientation and learn about the policies. From there, a match is sought. Big Brothers Big Sisters looks for preferences; for instance, some may not have experience with children on the Autism spectrum. A local youth within 15 miles from where the mentor lives can be found as a match.
Dane County’s Big Brothers Big Sisters has been successful in finding suitable matches, as evidenced by the length of these relationships, JD said. Nationwide, the average match is 25 months. In Dane County it’s 45 to 50 months.
After a match is approved by all the parties involved, the mentor will meet the parents then take the “little” on his or her first outing. Outings can include fishing, playing basketball, hiking, building with Legos or just going to Culver’s for ice cream.
Along the way, Big Brothers Big Sisters will keep in touch with mentors to see how their experience is going.
Families and couples can also mentor together. Often, both the mentor and the “little” are exposed to new things.
JD said 93 percent of youths in the program report feeling more socially acceptable; 89 percent report feeling more connected at school, leading to improved academic performance.
One who might otherwise skip school said he wanted to attend for his big brother.
“We’re helping that youth be more accountable,” JD said.
A School Friends site mentoring program also takes place at schools.
Currently, Big Brothers Big Sisters needs more mentors, to generate more awareness, and to build a strong infrastructure, JD said.
“This is how we break the cycle of poverty; this is now we build a better community in Dane County, a better community in Madison and a better community in Waunakee,” JD added.
For more information about Big Brothers Big Sisters, visit the website at bbbsmadison.org
Other News:
–Kevin Kearney gave his 90 seconds of fame. He has been a Lodi and Waunakee resident and operates his own tax firm in Waunakee.
–The Chamber community directory is now out with a listing of its members and information about the community, said Ellen Schaaf. The Chamber dinner and auction is March 7 with a celebration of the organization’s 40th year.
Guests: Ann Becker, guest of Mark McFarland; Howard Teeter, guest of Jim Fitzpatrick; Caitlyn Durden, guest of Nancy Thomas-Kuehn.
Visiting Rotarians: None.
Birthdays: None
Anniversaries: None.
Greeters: March 7, Tom Kennedy and Chris Kenney; March 14, Bob Klostermann and Ryan Knight; March 21, Neil Kruschek and Nancy Thomas-Kuehn; March 28, Alan Langeteig and Drew Lawrence.