Wanted: Mentors for area children

Courtesy photo “Bigs” and “Littles” create crafts and play games together at Hannahville Indian School during corporate mentoring recently. Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Bay Area have been matching mentors to children for 40 years. Mentoring helps a child achieve their full potential. Fifty-two percent of children in the program are more likely to remain in school and 75 percent are more likely to earn a four-year degree. The average match length between a Big and Little ranges from 19 to 37 months.

ESCANABA — This year marks the 40th anniversary of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Bay Area (BBBS). The program has matched adult volunteers (bigs) with children (littles) in Delta, Dickinson, and Menominee counties, as well as Florence and Marinette counties in Wisconsin.

BBBS matches children to a mentor who spends time with the child, which helps to improve the child’s emotional and educational experiences, according to the group.

“Big Brothers Big Sisters is focused on evidence-based, long-term mentoring,” said BBBS Executive Director Tanya Ettenhofer. “Our programs are preventative, providing children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one mentoring relationships.”

January is National Mentoring Month and Ettenhofer is asking community members to give of their time instead of attempting the popular resolutions for 2020.

“Providing children a positive role model addresses the need in our communities … resulting in self-sufficiency,” said Ettenhofer. “Big Brothers and Big Sisters come from all walks of life. They are committed to being positive role models and mentors to children.”

To volunteer, potential “bigs” complete an application. Four to six weeks later, BBBS will match the “big” with a “little.:” During the four to six weeks, the mentor will go through an orientation and background and reference check. A personal interview will be done before a match selection is made.

“Prior to being matched with a child, legal and driver’s license checks are conducted,” said Ettenhofer. “Prospective volunteers must attend an orientation, provide character references, and be interviewed by a trained, professional program coordinator.”

There are two programs to choose from — community-based or school-based. The community-based program matches volunteers with children ages six to 13. The school-based program matches students to a mentor in a school setting. The match length for each on an average are 37 months and 19 months respectively.

“When compared with their peers, youth matched in our program experience 84 percent improvement in socio-emotional competence, 82 percent improvement in avoidance of risky behaviors, and 83 percent educational success,” said Ettenhofer.

According to Ettenhofer, matches are made based on personality, similar interests, strength of the volunteer and needs of the child, personal preferences of all parties involved, age, race, and religion.

Once a volunteer is matched with a “little,” a program coordinator provides support to the match with regular contacts to the volunteer, parent and “little.”

“The program coordinator provides guidance, ideas for activities, and (receives) feedback on how the volunteer is making a difference,” said Ettenhofer.

Statistics provided by Ettenhofer show children in the BBBS program are 52 percent more likely to remain in school, 75 percent more likely to earn a four-year degree, and 81 percent more likely to hold a leadership role in an organization.

BBBS remains n operation through fundraising activities, the United Way, and community members.

“It is possible through the generosity of the community … various philanthropic sources such as foundations and trusts, grant allocations and contributions from individual donors, special clubs and organizations,” said Ettenhofer.

Matches are encouraged to focus on spending time together, sharing simple day-to-day experiences, said Ettenhofer.

For more information contact BBBS at the following numbers: Delta County 906-789-0060, Marinette/Menominee Counties 906-290-6784, Dickinson County 906-221-4673.