Positive role models can make a world of difference in the life of a young person, and that’s exactly the focus of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Grande Prairie & Area In-School Mentoring program.
Funded in part by the Community Foundation of Northwestern Alberta, the program engages adults or high school students as mentors and matches them with elementary school children in a one-to-one mentoring relationship for the duration of a school year.
Referred by their teachers, approximately 26 students in 20 schools in the Grande Prairie area will take part in the 2018/19 school year.
“These are the children that we are unable to reach through traditional means, but they are exactly the children that would benefit most from this program,” says BBBS president Vernon Boyd.
For the students, the impact of being enaged in the program can be huge.
“Most of the feedback we receive centers around school attendance and marks, both of which improve,” says Boyd. “The other major change that parents and teachers see in their kids is the increase in their self esteem. I believe that just having someone in their lives that is there only for them one on one, gives them the sense of security and belonging that may be lacking in their lives due to difficult family circumstances.”
Each set of matched mentors and mentees get together once a week to take part in fun, child/youth-directed and centered activities that promote social, academic and physical development. Matches are provided with an activity bin and activity booklet to structure their visits, and have access to school resources such as the library, playground and staff room kitchen.
For one young student, Jason, the program has had a big impact on his life, says his mom. “Having a Big Brother has made such a difference in his life,” she says. “He has been doing well. He has not been drawing his father’s grave like he had been doing for months. He is able to draw more happy pictures and good memories. He really loves the time he spends with his Big Brother.”
Many of the mentors involved in the program were themselves part of the BBBS in their youth, prompting them to come back to the organization as adults and give back in a leadership role.
“Strong mentoring programs such as this help children and youth to develop the confidence, self-esteem, and skills they need to be successful in school and in life,” says Boyd.
“The continued support of the Community Foundation has been invaluable to our organization,” he adds. “Without the funding we receive, some of our programs like the Big Bunch, would not exist or it would have to be scaled down.” Strengthening our youth strengthens our community and that is the role of the Community Foundation. Support to Big Brothers Big Sisters is due to generous donors to the Community Impact fund, Logan Family Fund and the GP Auto Group Legacy Foundation Fund.
You can make a difference in our community – not only for today but forever. Whether you’re contributing to a fund in your name, supporting a legacy that you connect with or simply wanting to make an impact on community – a donation to your Community Foundation helps to build Smart & Caring communities throughout our region. Donations can be made online here –https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/5797 or by calling the Community Foundation at (780) 538-2820. Earnings from your gift are distributed to student awards or through community impact grants to numerous innovative charitable projects, large and small.