A lot of times the focus of mentoring programs is on helping students and that may be what’s most important in the long run.
But for Cory Griffin, a Big Brother to a Kansas City, Kan., student, the Big Brothers-Big Sisters mentoring experience has been “life-changing” for him.
Griffin, who is single and never had a brother of his own, is now 24 and works at a bank. Griffin was 22 and not long out of college at the University of Kansas business school when he met his Little Brother, who is now at Wyandotte High School.
“It really makes you think about the world from a different perspective,” Griffin said. “The ability to learn how to be a friend, and at some point, a father, has been rewarding.”
Griffin spends a few hours each week with his Little Brother, sometimes going to activities, exercise or to a restaurant. Since they started the Big Brothers program, the student has become a little more involved in life, getting out more, exercising more and also becoming involved in a church youth group. The more time Griffin spends with his Little Brother, the more he sees him changing and becoming what he wants to be, Griffin said.
Griffin noted he also had a mentor in his life for work and music, who helped listen to him.
“I feel I have an obligation to try to pay it forward and pass it on,” Griffin said.
Having a Little Brother has caused him to rethink how he will act in the future, he said.
“It’s really shaped a lot of the things that I have thought about in terms of how I want to raise my family,” he said. For example, he would be more open-minded than he might have been previously, he said. “I’m probably not going to be a dad for another five years, but I feel I’m so much more prepared to do that now.”
For Griffin, working with the Big Brothers organization has been a way to make a transition from college, “where everything’s about yourself,” to a more caring existence. “With that comes the perspective of, ‘Here’s what it means to be relied upon and here’s what it means to be important to somebody else, not just yourself,’” he said.
Big Brothers matched Cory, who leads a fairly busy life, with his Little Brother, who was somewhat physically inactive. The result is that the Little Brother participated in more youth group activities, got more exercise and got out of his home more.
Cory’s Little Brother’s mother, who lives in Kansas City, Kan., said she has noticed that her son is more sociable now. He’s participating in some youth activities such as painting homes as a volunteer with a group, and he’s getting out more to participate in activities.
Her son is doing well in school and wants to go into a professional field after college, she said.
“It did help a lot,” she said about the Big Brothers program.
Kristi Hutchison of the Big Brothers-Big Sisters organization described an ambitious initiative coming up this year to match 350 kids with mentors by the end of the year in Greater Kansas City.
“We currently have 46 kids from Wyandotte County that are waiting for a Big Brother or Big Sister and there are more coming in every day,” she said.
The Greater Kansas City area affiliate recently won the Agency of the Year award at the national conference out of 400 local affiliates.
“We did that by raising more money than ever before and serving more children,” Hutchison said. “We raised $475,000 through our ‘For Kids’ Sake’ campaign.”
“Now that we’ve raised the money, the second half is focused on using that money and matching as many kids as possible with a Big Brother or Big Sister,” she said. “We have over 500 kids that are waiting.”
The local organization has never matched 350 kids with mentors in such a short space of time before, but “we think it’s possible,” she said.
“Our waiting list is continually growing because every day parents call and enroll kids in our program,” she said.
"Our problem is that while we have hundreds of kids, we don’t have as many volunteers stepping up to the plate to be their Bigs,” she said. “That’s where we need the help of the community.”
There are currently two programs for students, one is the traditional program, and the other involves Kauffman Scholars. The mentors just need a few hours a week, and the Big Brothers program is easy and fun, she said.
“It just takes a little bit of time to make a big difference in a kid’s life,” Hutchison said.
For more information on the program, call 816-777-2892 or visit www.bbbskc.org/.
To reach Mary Rupert, editor, email firstname.lastname@example.org.