Santa Barbara- S County

Lompoc Celebrates National Thank Your Mentor Day

Big Brothers, Big Sisters seeing volunteer high school program grow

LOMPOC, Calif. - Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Santa Barbara County in partnership with the Lompoc Boys and Girls Club are celebrating the growing popularity of a volunteer mentor program involving Lompoc High School students.

"Most of the reason that this has doubled has to do with the bigs you see behind us", program coordinator Sarah Rudd told a packed room at the Lompoc Boys and Girls Club Thursday afternoon.

Lompoc High school students, called "bigs", are recruited and trained to become mentors to local at-risk elementary school students or "littles".

"Even in a county like Santa Barbara, more than 16,000 of our community's kids live under the dark cloud of poverty", Rudd says, "they are at-risk for school drop out, gang violence and drug abuse. With a caring mentor its statistically proven that our kids can beat the odds."

17 year old Andrea Murray is part of three generations of mentor success, being a mentor to "little" Allison while being mentored by her "big" Sandra Grim.

"Being Allison's mentor means a lot to me because I've had the support from my big showing me exactly what to do and I'm following in her footsteps", Murray says, "it's a great program for people to get involved with and they would be helping kids that don't really get the support that they need."

"I was taught to just always give back", Sandra Grim says about being a mentor to Andrea, "we just have fun, I have someone to just enjoy life with."

Big Brothers, Big Sisters, through the Family Service Agency, is celebrating National Mentoring Month in January with their "Something Big" campaign, which aims to recruit 30 mentors and 30 sponsors in 30 days.

The agency says Big Brothers, Big Sisters is recognized as the single most effective prevention-based mentoring program in the United States.

At-risk children ages 6-15 are carefully matched with caring adult mentors, who help them reach their full potential through one-to-one relationships built on trust, friendship, consistency, support, and guidance.

"Mentoring today, and for a hundred years, continues to be a critical difference between whether a child reaches their full potential or struggles to succeed", Rudd says, "its our vision that all children achieve success in life."

Big Brothers, Big Sisters says in a recent national study titled "The Mentoring Effect", it was determined young people who are mentored show improvements academically, socially, and economically.

The agency says the study found that mentoring programs are very effective in combating school violence and discipline problems, substance abuse, incarceration and truancy.

The agency says its also a proven cost-effective investment: for every $1 invested in mentoring, there is a $4.70 return to society.

Yet despite these benefits, the agency says one in three youth will reach age 19 without a mentor creating a "mentoring gap" that demonstrates a need for collaboration and resources.

"There's absolutely more littles than there are bigs", Rudd says, "in fact we have over one hundred kids right now who are ready and waiting for a caring mentor to spend time and share a great activity."

Locally, Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Santa Barbara County says it has served 221 youth, 222 volunteer mentors, and managed 23,158 volunteer hours this year.

"Mentoring today, and for a hundred years, continues to be a critical difference between whether a child reaches their full potential or struggles to succeed", Rudd says, "its our vision that all children achieve success in life."

Lompoc Police Chief Pat Walsh and Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO Ken Ostini were among several community leaders in attendance at the celebration Thursday afternoon.

With a rise in juvenile delinquency and youth violence in local communities, Ostini says there's never been a better time to become a mentor.

"Come down to places like the Boys and Girls Club and look around and see the kinds of things that are going on, the good kinds of things that are going on",  Ostini says, "get involved because there is more need than there are people working right now to help support these programs."

To learn more about becoming a mentor go to www.sbbigs.org or call (805) 735-4376 or (805) 965-1001.


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