People are working multiple jobs in a tough economy while public schools are facing enough scrutiny and controversy to drive many teachers from the profession.
Yet even as parents are working harder and educators are stretched thin, young people still need adult guidance.
“Young people from all walks of life, they need more support than ever,” said Raymond Long, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arkansas. “The community at large, we want to create, we want to develop well-rounded young people. We want better outcomes academically. We want a more empowered and skilled workforce. We want public safety and public health.”
But how to support young people and achieve those outcomes when heads of households are trying to make ends meet and educators are overworked?
Mentoring programs have long existed as a way to provide supplemental, positive adult influences in young people’s lives. After school programs that provide tutoring, food service, mental health counseling and more can provide a welcome respite for families that are already dealing with multiple challenges.
“Having an extra adult, in addition to the family, who is setting aside 2-4 hours per month to help a family’s child succeed, it’s priceless,” Long said. “A lot of times families are working and they need the additional assistance.”
For parents there is the peace of mind in knowing their kids are in a safe place and getting positive guidance. For the kids, especially those in underserved communities, there is real, substantial help in overcoming the challenges they find on the tricky path to adulthood.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arkansas is one of the entities providing such mentorship. An affiliate of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, a network of 235 agencies, the central Arkansas agency provides both one-to-one mentoring and partners with youth serving organizations, businesses and the community to offer one-to-many mentoring.
With five integrated programs, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arkansas has served 9,000 children and families and trained more than 10,000 volunteers.
“If we want to give every child the opportunity to become the best version of themselves, we have to have a robust, well-supported mentoring organization,” Long said. “And we’re in a position to do that.”
This fall the agency is rolling out a new program, Mentoring is More, designed to expand its services to include education and attainment in justice, diversity, youth empowerment, financial literacy and academic and leadership development.
“Through mentoring we’ve served over 150 kids this year,” Long said. “That’s right outside of COVID. And of course more young people need help, but it costs money and we need our community to invest in mentoring so we can serve more kids.”
To support Mentoring is More, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arkansas turns to a favorite fundraiser, Bowl For Kids’ Sake, a Halloween themed bowling party that has existed at the national level for around 50 years.
With a goal of raising at least $40,000 for Mentoring is More, the peer-to-peer fundraiser will be held on Oct. 29 in two sessions, at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., at North Little Rock’s Millennium Bowl. There are individual and team fundraising opportunities, and costumes are encouraged.
Information can be found here.
The event has been silent for two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Long said. Participants don’t necessarily have to bowl; Long said they can still contribute or raise money and come to meet the staff and the youth that Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arkansas are committed to supporting.
“I don’t want the public to miss out on the opportunity to really give this organization a financial boost to support our mentoring programs and an expansion of what we’ve been to the community,” Long said.