For many of us, summer brings to mind childhood memories of baseball games, barbecues and trips to the beach. But for thousands of young people in Queens who are growing up below the poverty line in single-parent households, summer is just another reminder of what they don’t have.
As the nation’s oldest and New York City’s largest youth mentoring organization, Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City serves more than 3,500 young people each year through one-on-one mentoring relationships. Most of these children live below the poverty line in single-parent households. But there are more than 150,000 children in the five boroughs who fall under this category — and that is our target population. Childhood and adolescence are trying enough even under ideal circumstances — but these added challenges create a barrier to success that is difficult to overcome.
Our goal is to provide a mentor to every young person who wants or needs one. The need for volunteer mentors is tremendous — and our greatest focus is attracting men of color from all five boroughs. That’s why we’ve launched a year-long citywide recruiting campaign aimed at encouraging adults throughout New York City to volunteer as mentors.
We know firsthand that mentoring changes lives. Young people in our programs do better in school, experience higher self-esteem and enjoy stronger relationships with their peers and families. These are real results.
Mentors come from all walks of life. Many people think you need to be a doctor, lawyer, or investment banker to be an effective mentor. But we’re simply looking for caring individuals who want to be a positive influence on a young person. Our mentors, or “Bigs,” come from a wide range of backgrounds and work in a variety of industries, including construction, public service and education.
By the end of 2012, BBBS of NYC hopes to have not only found mentors for the hundreds of children waiting for Bigs, but also to have significantly increased the number of male mentors living in Queens. Please consider volunteering to become a Big and start making a positive impact on a child in need of a friend. Go to the park, play some sports or check out a museum — our mentors change the lives of children. You’ll be helping a child, and in turn helping the family and the greater community at large.
This summer, as you reflect on your own childhood memories, please consider helping a young person in need make some positive memories of their own — please consider becoming a Big.
To become a volunteer mentor or to learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC, log onto bigsnyc.org or call (212) 686-2042.
Hector Batista is Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City.