By Samantha Joseph
MARTIN COUNTY -- A little time spent mentoring a child can make a big difference, said administrators of a local nonprofit looking to recruit volunteers.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Palm Beach and Martin counties is urging residents to "spend a little time" to positively impact the life of one of the 275 children in its program.
"It doesn't take anything to be a mentor. It just takes your own life skills," said Jeanie Flanagan, the group's customer relations specialist.
"The bottom line is to have some fun, let them talk about things and introduce them to new hobbies."
But for the hundreds of children in the organization, spending time with mentors leads to several measurable improvements.
Children with mentors have better school attendance, higher grades and are more likely to go to college. They also have improved self-esteem and several other positive changes, representatives of the nonprofit said.
About 96 percent maintain or improve their academic performance; 92 percent have better school attendance, 93 percent show improved behavior, 98 percent are promoted to the next grade level and 85 percent experience increased confidence in their own abilities.
"We really are the gold standard of mentoring. Big Brothers Big Sisters has been around for over 100 years, so we really know what we're doing. We have some substantial stats that support what mentoring does," Ms. Flanagan said. "Essentially we're making good citizens in our own community."
Mentors, called big brothers or sisters, can participate in school or community-based programs and help children learn career skills.
Many children in the program have difficulty focusing or paying attention in school, and several come from single-parent homes.
Mentors typically spend about a year with their "little brothers" or "sisters."
"Being a big brother or big sister is one of the most enjoyable things you'll ever do, not to mention one of the most fulfilling. You have the opportunity to help shape a child's future for the better by empowering him or her to achieve. And the best part is it's actually a lot of fun. You and your 'little' can share the kinds of activities you already like to do," Ms. Flanagan said.
"Play sports together, go on a hike, read books, eat a pizza with extra anchovies, or just give some advice and inspiration. Whatever it is you enjoy, odds are you'll enjoy it even more with your little, and you'll be making a life-changing impact."
For more information, call (772) 283-8112, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.mentorbig.org.