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Shaping Futures: The Legacy of Fathers and Mentors

Jun 5, 2024

June is a special month, not just because of the warm weather and long days, but because it gives us the opportunity to celebrate Father’s Day—a time to honor the men who play pivotal roles in our lives. This month, I want to spotlight the incredible work being done by Big Brothers Big Sisters, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing mentorship and support to children in need. Through their one-on-one mentoring programs, adult volunteers are paired with young individuals to serve as positive role models and help them reach their full potential.

My husband, Jeff, is one such mentor. Our family has embraced his "little brother" as one of our own, and our experience has shown us firsthand the profound impact that mentoring relationships can have. These bonds create a sense of family and support that can be life-changing for the young individuals involved.

Beyond mentorship, Big Brothers Big Sisters also offers scholarships to help mentees further their education. At a recent scholarship awards luncheon, we had the privilege of meeting four scholarship recipients, each pursuing their academic dreams. One mentee aspired to become an MRI technician, while another aimed to become a nurse. These inspiring young people exemplify the positive impact of Big Brothers Big Sisters in supporting the academic goals and aspirations of their mentees.

Despite the incredible work being done by Big Brothers Big Sisters, there is still a significant need for more male volunteers in particular. All volunteers are appreciated, anyone of any age can help. However, it is the presence of male mentors that is really sought after the most because it is deficient. This is so necessary—especially for boys who may lack positive male role models in their lives. Unfortunately, lingering stigmas still associate caregiving and mentorship primarily with women, perpetuating misconceptions that deter men from stepping into these vital roles.

But society is changing. More and more, we are recognizing the importance of diverse role models for children. Men can and do make excellent mentors, offering unique perspectives, guidance, and support that profoundly influence a young person's life. Male mentors can teach resilience, integrity, and empathy, helping boys navigate the complexities of growing up and preparing them for the challenges of adulthood.

It is time to break down the barriers and challenge the stereotypes that prevent men from stepping into these vital roles. By volunteering as mentors, men have the opportunity to create a lasting, positive impact on the lives of young boys, helping to shape a brighter future for the next generation.

For those considering becoming a Big Brother, the process is straightforward, and the rewards are immeasurable. The organization provides thorough training and ongoing support to ensure every mentor feels confident and capable in their role.

Take Jeff, for instance. He was deeply moved by a tragic story from Chicago, where a young boy from the Ida B. Wells homes was murdered because he refused to steal candy.  This incident struck a chord with Jeff, who had delivered Christmas presents to the area the previous year. The tragedy fueled his desire to mentor a young inner-city child. Although the organization initially offered him a different match, Jeff chose to wait several more months for the right fit. This decision highlights the organization's commitment to setting up successful and meaningful mentorships.

Being matched with someone from a different ethnic background, socio-economic class, and life experiences, yet discovering shared connections, helps bridge societal divides. The commitment typically involves spending a few hours a month with your mentee, but the benefits extend far beyond the time invested. Men who have taken on the role of a Big Brother often speak of the deep sense of fulfillment and purpose they gain from the experience. They witness firsthand the transformation in their mentees, from increased self-confidence and improved academic performance to the development of new skills and interests. Jeff frequently speaks about how life-changing the experience has been for him.

Every child deserves the chance to have a positive role model, and men play a critical role in this mission. By stepping up as mentors, men can help break the cycle of negative stereotypes and demonstrate that caregiving and mentorship are universal responsibilities. Big Brothers Big Sisters needs more volunteers of all ages, especially male volunteers, to ensure every child who needs a mentor can have one. If you are a man who wants to make a difference, consider becoming a Big Brother today. Your involvement can change a life—and perhaps even your own.

This Father’s Day, let's honor not only the fathers but also the mentors who step into the lives of young people and make a lasting impact. Their dedication and love help shape the future, one relationship at a time. Whether you are a father, a mentor, or someone contemplating this rewarding path, know that your influence is invaluable. Together, we can create a world where every child has the support and guidance they need to thrive.

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