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Big Brothers Big Sisters wants to erase the waitlist for mentors in Miami Valley

a woman in a big brothers big sisters shirt helps a girl with an art project
Big Brothers Big Sisters Miami Valley
This April, Big Brothers Big Sisters Miami Valley is working to ERASE THE WAIT for the thirty-five Littles on their waitlist.

There are 35 kids in the Miami Valley hopefully awaiting a match with a mentor.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is working this April to help make matches with its "Erase the Wait" campaign. WYSO's Jerry Kenney talked with Christopher Mackey, community impact & engagement manager with the organization, about how the community can get involved.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Christopher Mackey: Big Brothers Big Sisters matches adult mentors (we call them bigs) with youth mentees (we call them littles).

Bigs and littles do fun, safe, inexpensive activities while focusing on goals.

It can be as simple as introducing a little to a new hobby, and as profound as helping that little focus on career goals, life goals, graduating high school.

In the month of April, Big Brothers Big Sisters has a really ambitious campaign. We want to erase the wait for the 35 kids on our waitlist who are currently waiting for a Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor, and so we're first asking community members in the Miami Valley to step up and become a mentor for one of these 35 kids and to help us erase the wait.

We're also asking for people to support the Erase the Wait campaign by doing a couple simple things. If they go to our website, all they need to do is share flyers, share digital flyers, physical flyers, post on social media about the "Erase the Wait" campaign so that we can find those 35 mentors by the end of April.

Jerry Kenney: Can you give us an idea of these kids; can you outline some of the circumstances that that they're going through?

Mackey: The kids in our program come from all backgrounds and experiences. Some of the kids are dealing with a lot of issues, whether those issues are related to things going on at home, things going on at school, or we've talked a little bit about COVID. And I just read an article in The New York Times that has talked about one of the big impacts of Covid has been an increase in chronic absenteeism in schools. So a lot of the kids are dealing with mental health issues, chronic absenteeism as a result of COVID.

One of the powerful things about mentoring is that mentors can be that additional link in helping a youth be successful in life. In addition to teachers, coaches, parents, mentors, or those consistent, positive people who can be there and help a youth work on being successful in life.

Kenney: How many current kids do you have matched up with bigs? 

Mackey: Big Brothers Big Sisters Miami Valley currently serves around 400 youth in Greene, Miami, Montgomery and Preble counties. So mentors and mentees, bigs and littles meet four to six hours a month.

That's just a couple meetings a month, and they do fun, safe, inexpensive activities going to the park, going bowling, getting some ice cream, playing board games, while talking, while focusing on small goals, letting a little learn more about a new hobby or profound goals.

Helping that little focus on navigating middle school, graduating high school, potential career goals.

I was a big brother for five years, and I can say that being a mentor is not only an extremely rewarding opportunity for the mentor, it was an extremely rewarding opportunity for me.

It's a very easy way to give back, and my biggest take away from being a mentor was just being a consistent, positive presence in the life of a young person, allowing that young person to talk about what was going on in their life and to listen to them as they shared interests, good things going on in their life, not so good things, but working to help that young person be successful in life is very powerful.

Kenney: And I'm guessing that bigs and littles are paired for a predetermined or set amount of time?

Mackey: Based on my experiences with my mentees, one of again, a takeaway that he told me was, I worked with a school-based mentee for eight years, and he told me that in addition to his family, I was one person he knew that he could talk to.

When I met with that young person, his teachers and his counselor said that they noticed a significant difference in his attitude and his talkative ness in his confidence.

And so over time, if people are interested in becoming mentors, they can make a similar difference in the life of a young person.

Jerry began volunteering at WYSO in 1991 and hosting Sunday night's Alpha Rhythms in 1992. He joined the YSO staff in 2007 as Morning Edition Host, then All Things Considered. He's hosted Sunday morning's WYSO Weekend since 2008 and produced several radio dramas and specials . In 2009 Jerry received the Best Feature award from Public Radio News Directors Inc., and was named the 2023 winner of the Ohio Associated Press Media Editors Best Anchor/News Host award. His current, heart-felt projects include the occasional series Bulletin Board Diaries, which focuses on local, old-school advertisers and small business owners. He has also returned as the co-host Alpha Rhythms.