Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central New Mexico is joining branches nationwide to kick off their national mentoring month in an effort to highlight the work of mentors – which the organization needs more of.
“The mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters is to provide youth with mentors. So, we do that by recruiting caring adult volunteer mentors from the community and we match them with kids who are six to 18, depending on the program,” Assistant Marketing Manager Jessica Sosa said.
The central New Mexico branch oversees 1,500 matches within the community.
The organization offers two programs to kids in the Central New Mexico area. The kids are matched with a mentor and spend four to six hours with them a month. They also offer a program called Mentor 2.0, in which college-educated mentors work with Amy Biehl High School and South Valley Academy students to help them graduate and enter the workforce or further their education.
Currently, 200 kids are on the waitlist for the Mentor 2.0 program and 50 kids on the waitlist for the community-based program, meaning the organization needs 250 more adults to mentor kids within the community.
However, Sosa explained that it is difficult to get male mentors to join the programs. “It’s just statistically less likely for a man to sign up as a mentor,” Sosa said. The lack of men signing up to be mentors has caused the organization to occasionally partner female mentors with boys.
“It’s not typical, but we do allow that and sometimes either the mentor or the mentee will request that particular situation,” Sosa said.
The organization also had to hurdle the obstacles that Covid-19 presented and currently has a shortage of girls in the program. Sosa credited the shortage to parent’s safety concerns.
“Unfortunately, it’s a fear of safety. Even though our safety procedures are very, very strong, we do those background checks, I think parents of female children are less willing to sign them up these days,” Sosa said. She explained that potential mentors first have to fill out an information form, go through an in-depth interview, get fingerprinted and a have a background check run on them.
“Safety is our number one priority for these kids. So we want to make sure that they are protected,” Sosa said. A support specialist is also assigned to each match. The support specialist checks in with both the mentor and the guardian of the child on a regular basis.
“It’s at least one weekly call where the support specialist will call the mentor, they’ll talk with the guardian of the family. And at that time, the mentor can request more training or ask for help if they have any situation,” Sosa said. She further explained that guardians can let the support specialists know if anything is going wrong or share their experiences with the program.
The interview that applicants go through also ensures that kids are matched with adults who have similar interests said Sosa.
“They can read with them, they can play board games with them. We basically tell our new matches, ‘Anything that you like to do on your own, that you would have been doing by yourself, now you get to take out a kiddo to do it with you.’ It’s really fun and it’s really easy,” Sosa said.
Sosa also mentioned that the organization sponsors free events for their matches to do together and encourages matches to do low cost or free activities.
“Honestly, it’s a really way to give back to the community. It doesn’t cost you anything and in terms of time it is a huge payout for a very small period of time. You’re only spending at maximum six hours a month with this child and it makes a profound impact of their life,” Sosa said.
According to Big Brothers Big Sister of America, in 2021 96% of children in the program made or strengthened plans for finishing high school or pursuing college. 100% avoided police and juvenile justice contact and 97% avoided or reduced substance use.
It was also found that 90% of children saw their mentor as a “very important adult in their life.”
Sosa said that the organization is working to solve the lack of male mentors and girl participants with marketing campaigns. “We are always hoping to expand the number of kids that we serve, male, female and non-binary, of course. We want to continue to serve as many as possible. So I think it can only get better from here,” Sosa said.
Those wanting to be a mentor can begin the process at bbbs-cnm.org.