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"You don't have to be a superhero... just a member of the community who wants to make a positive difference in the life of a young person."

Ezra Katz
Wikimedia Commons

Big Brothers Big Sisters Miami Valley's 25 Bigs in 40 Days effort is underway.

Big Brothers Big Sisters Miami Valley aims to find mentors for nearly 50 local children and youth this month. Chris Mackey is the community impact and engagement manager for the organization. He tells WYSO’s Jerry Kenney about the impact that mentoring a young person in need can have on a community. Needs, particularly for males, have increased dramatically in recent years.

Chris Mackey: Not only from a staff member at Big Brothers Big Sisters, but as a mentor. I've been a mentor for a number of years, I've personally seen how mentoring and being a consistent, positive adult role model in the life of a young person. Just allowing that young person to talk about things that interest them, talk about their lives can be really rewarding for the mentor and really beneficial for the mentee.

And I will say too, that in fact, national data has shown that Big Brothers, Big Sisters mentoring has a lot of benefits. And among those benefits, 46% of littles said that they were less likely to do drugs, and 86% of littles said that they had reduced depressive symptoms as the result of having a mentor. And so, getting involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters is a really rewarding opportunity for mentors and it's a great way to help you deal with the pandemic and the results of that pandemic.

Jerry Kenney: Talk a little bit more about your experience as a mentor and a big brother, because I imagine it would be intimidating for someone to step up and take this on.

Mackey: One of the things that I always say to potential mentors is that you don't have to have an advanced degree in social work to be a Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor. We encourage that. But I come from a background that does not include anything special. And the biggest takeaway from my experience of being a mentor was just being that consistent, positive presence in the life of a young person. Allowing that kid to talk about the good things going on in their life, the not so good things going on in their life.

The mentee that I have has dealt with a lot in his young life, but being that consistent positive presence can really be beneficial for the youth. I know that he has told me how much this mentorship has meant to him, and for me it's been rewarding to see a young person through the years grow into a young man who has definite interests. He loves anime. I don't know a thing about anime but he loves to talk about it and, in the meantime, we talk about school, we talk about playing baseball and we participate in fun, safe, inexpensive activities, focusing on goals that will hopefully be beneficial to this young man as he grows into adulthood.

Kenney: How many Big Brothers, Big Sisters, do you currently have in the local chapter, then? Well, let's talk about the need for more, which is an effort underway right now.

Mackey: So, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Miami Valley covers four counties. We cover Green, Miami, Montgomery and Preble Counties and we currently serve around 400 youth in our service area. And so, while we already have a big imprint in the area, we're always looking to grow because we have a significant number of littles on our waitlist. We actually have 49 Littles on our waitlist, and that includes 33 little brothers. And so, we're always looking for anyone who's interested in mentoring, a big need at Big Brothers Big Sisters is for Big Brothers male mentors to step up and to become a mentor for a young person.

So, between now and May 30, Big Brothers Big Sisters is in the process of what we're calling 25 Bigs in 40 days. It's a recruitment drive and it's a great way for folks to get involved in their community, make a difference in the life of a young person, and especially impact youth who've been on our waitlist for a long time. And they can get involved in a number of ways. They can reach out to us through our website, go to bbbsmiamivalley.org. They can give us a call at 937-220-6850 or they can just Google "Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Miami Valley." They can find us through that.

We encourage anyone who is interested in potentially impacting the life of a young person to learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters, because you don't have to be a superhero to be a Big, you just need to be a member of the community who's consistent and positive and who wants to make a positive difference in the life of a young person.

Kenney: Chris Mackey is community impact and engagement manager for Big Brothers Big Sisters, Miami Valley. Thanks so much for your time and good luck with the program underway.

Mackey: Thank you very much.

Jerry Kenney was introduced to WYSO by a friend and within a year of first tuning in became an avid listener and supporter. He began volunteering at the station in 1991 and began hosting Alpha Rhythms in February of 1992. Jerry joined the WYSO staff in 2007 as a host of All Things Considered and soon transitioned into hosting Morning Edition. In addition to now hosting All Things Considered, Jerry is the host and producer of WYSO Weekend, WYSO's weekly news and arts magazine. He has also produced several radio dramas for WYSO in collaboration with local theater companies. Jerry has won several Ohio AP awards as well as an award from PRINDI for his work with the WYSO news department. Jerry says that the best part of his job is being able to talk to people in the community and share their experiences with WYSO listeners.