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PATCH VOICES: Today is National Mentoring Day

Chad, standing and Jobe, his mentee, are in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. PHOTO CREDIT: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta
Chad, standing and Jobe, his mentee, are in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. PHOTO CREDIT: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta
by Betsy Helgager Hughes

You may have seen the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta street light banners that run along Peachtree Street in honor of the nearly 3,000 metro Atlanta mentors, also known as 'Bigs.' They are up during the month of January, National Mentoring Month, to acknowledge the power and impact of mentoring.

“At one point or another in your life, you’ve probably been mentored so you know the value of having another caring adult in your life,” said Janice McKenzie-Crayton, BBBSMA president.

“Tweeting or posting a message on our or your Facebook page about your mentor or mentoring experience is one way to raise awareness that mentoring matters. We want to thank our Bigs who selflessly give of their time to mentor ‘Littles’ enrolled in our program.”

Did you know that among young people with a ‘Big’: 

  • 94% are promoted to the next grade
  • 78% graduate on time
  • 80% of high school seniors pursue post-secondary educational opportunities
  • 80% report increased levels of scholastic competence, positive educational expectations, and improved self-esteem
  • 97% never become involved in the Juvenile Justice System

Many of the children Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta serves are from low-income, single-parent homes that may have an incarcerated parent. Here is an example of just one match Big Brothers Big Sisters has made that proves and illustrates that mentoring does make a difference. 

CHAD & JOBE’S STORY

“I wonder how long this will last,” Jobe asked, talking about his initial reaction to being paired with a Big Brother, Chad, six years ago.

With nearly every other male figure in his life—including his father, uncle, and grandfather—in and out of prison, a steady and reliable presence wasn’t something he encountered often, or at all.

At the age of 14, Jobe was prepared to abandon his Boy Scouts troop, quit playing basketball, and neglect the community service projects he had been involved with throughout his childhood.

Then Jobe met Chad, a volunteer mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta. On their first outing together, Jobe informed Chad that his favorite food was pizza. Rather than going out to a local pizzeria, Chad took Jobe to the grocery store to buy ingredients, and then back home to make their own pizza from scratch.

This single activity set the tone for what was to follow in their mentoring relationship: careful guidance and perspective, and being shown by example how doing is often more rewarding than merely receiving. It was this approach that lead Jobe to re-assess the value in perseverance.

“Chad motivated me to keep doing what I was doing—Boy Scouts wasn’t the coolest thing to do at my age,” said Jobe. “In my community, the people I used to surround myself with would pick at me for it. Chad encouraged me to keep going on the route I was going.”

Today, Jobe is both the youngest Eagle Scout in his troop and the one with the most merit badges. He not only continued playing basketball, but added golf and cross-country to his busy schedule, along with hosting and participating in community service events throughout his adolescence.

“Chad taught me that with hard work and dedication, there is no limit to what I could do. He believed in me, and I began to believe in myself,” said Jobe.

“I’ve found out over the years [that] it doesn’t matter what neighborhood I am from, it doesn’t matter who my father is, and it doesn’t matter what financial struggles I endure: knowledge cannot be taken from me.”

Jobe is now enrolled for his freshman year at Morehouse College.

Both Chad and Jobe are quick to say that their relationship will continue into college and beyond, long after their direct match involvement with Big Brothers Big Sisters is officially over. Jobe says he wants to be a Big Brother himself, once he’s finished with college and settled down.

“Chad and Jobe’s story is just one of thousands I could tell. But the one thing I know for sure is that everyone can truly play a role in mentoring, and with the support of the community, we can continue to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever,” said McKenzie-Crayton.

Year-round, but particularly during January, National Mentoring Month, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta is encouraging individuals to celebrate the power of mentoring whether as a mentor, an advocate for mentoring, or by helping to fund a match between a Big and a Little. Each match costs BBBSMA $1,200. Anyone can contribute at any level.

Visit http://www.bbbsatl.org to give or get involved. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta’s new headquarters ‘Home’ is located at 1382 Peachtree Street, on the corner of Peachtree and 17th Street, and can be reached by calling 404-601-7000. View “What does ‘home’ mean to you?” video for more information. Give a gift to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta by visiting: BBBS Give.

Ms. Hughes is with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta.

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