By: Steve Kirkland
I don’t remember the exact year. It was probably nearing the summer of 1962 or 1963. I was riding home from elementary school with a buddy and his parents. School was about to be out, and I had my final report card in my hand. It was a hot day in Selma, Alabama. I was sitting in the backseat barefooted (did we really go to school barefooted?) with the window rolled down by handles…no power options yet.
As we cruised down the highway, I had my head partially out the window and was enjoying the breeze and tapping my report card on the window sill. Next thing I knew, I momentarily lost my grip and the report card slipped down into the door itself. I was stunned as I realized this was a sealed unit and the report card wouldn’t pop out at the bottom like a 6-cent bottled drink from the soda machine. Actually, mortified is a better word. What kind of trouble was I in? Would the world continue to function without my report card? Well, it certainly felt like a big deal at the time!
Fast forward a few years (OK, many) and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Henderson County has just finished our 2016-2017 fiscal year and, yes, I have a report card to share with you.
The goal for last fiscal year was to make 28 new “matches” between a mentor Big Brother or Big Sister and a Little Brother or Little Sister. We made 36 matches during this 12-month period. Our overall program growth was a staggering 20 percent including the work being done through AmeriCorps members working directly with students in various elementary schools. Intensified outreach efforts, this column and word of mouth about our unique mentoring program made for our best year for new matches and youth served in other ways in quite a while!
We ask for a one-year commitment as a minimum in both our community-based and school-based matching programs. The average length of match for those relationships that were closed (child aged out or graduated from high school, volunteer moved, etc.) was 51 months in the community program and 13 months in the school program. We are fortunate to have an extremely dedicated group of volunteer “Bigs!”
Each year, BBBS conducts a survey that involves feedback from teachers and/or school counselors for children in both our community and school-based programs. Here is the 2016-17 data by category:
- 90 percent improved in self confidence
- 88 percent improved in problem-solving skills
- 89 percent improved in motivation to learn
- 70 percent improved in academic performance
- 73 percent improved in completion of homework
- 94 percent improved in behavior at school
- 98 percent improved in relationships with peers
- 89 percent improved in relationships with adults
- 61 percent improved in attendance
Let those numbers roll over you for a moment. They truly reflect the impact that having a caring, supportive adult mentor can and does have on young people. Not just the friendship and “doing stuff” aspect like activities in the community or at school, but the tangible, positive spinoff that comes from having a mentor care about, role model for, encourage and challenge a child. Look at the difference these relationships make in lifting self-confidence, social skills/peer relationships and academic success!
The staff of BBBS is proud to share this agency report card with you. None of this would be possible without our volunteers, charitable gifts from the community and funding support from United Way of Henderson County, grants and other sources. By advocating for and investing in our youth, Henderson County is generating a collective group hug that is “transforming children’s lives through mentoring and supportive services” which happens to be the mission statement of our program.
My personal report card is long gone in the scrap heap of life, but the outcomes of BBBS are alive and well in the hands of you, the readers. Please share our success report and continue advocating for the at-risk youth of Henderson County. With your gifts of time and donations, we can “run through” Henderson County proclaiming the ability of BBBS to change lives for the better — one child, one match relationship at a time.
Just be careful if you go barefooted while spreading the news…
Contact BBBS at by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 828-692-8153. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Henderson County is a funded community partner with United Way of Henderson County.