By Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye
An hour a week makes a difference in the lives of children involved with the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BB/BS) program, says Heather Patterson, an in-school mentor. The commitment is one hour per week and it’s a commitment she can handle.
“You can play in the gym, you can play outside or do crafts, and the schools are really supportive,” Patterson said.
She said from the principal down to the janitor of the school she goes to, there has been support and acknowledgment for her work.
BB/BS program director Morgan Chernick said the positive change she sees in the children is more than the mentors realize. How BB/BS interviews volunteer mentors is designed to make good matches. The goal is to give a solid foundation to the kids, and a good match makes a better experience for both. Chernick said as long as she has been director they have not had anybody mismatched.
“(Patterson) helped me to learn how to read new words,” said Skyler, 11, who has been in the program with Patterson for three years.
Skyler explains how much he looks forward to seeing his mentor every week and how happy it makes him, “She makes me smile.”
Patterson started as a mentor for Skyler when he was in Grade 1 and he is now entering Grade 4. She has enjoyed seeing Skyler’s personal growth over the years and sees how excited he gets when she comes for her weekly visit. Patterson said most of the services in the school are available to her and Skyler.
Kids are willing to try new things, Patterson said of the positive development of a mentor. Also a mother, she enjoys filling in any missing gaps with Skyler.
Patterson used to work with BB/BS volunteering in their Big Bunch program. When there are more kids than mentors, kids are brought together and volunteers plan trips and events with the bunch. Chernick said this is part of the traditional program where mentors usually do things for three or four hours a week. Sometimes a mentor and their charge, with support from BB/BS, will transition to this program once they feel they have outgrown the in school program.
Chernick said Big Brothers/Big Sisters need mentors in all Ponoka schools and they also invite more men to the program. They are working hard to reach their goal of adding 20 new mentors in September.