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Big Brothers, Big Sisters make positive mentors PDF Print E-mail
Monday, December 10, 2012 12:12 PM

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OTTOVILLE — In a world rife with reality television and online exploitation, children are bombarded with negative rolemodels and need good examples to follow. The Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America program hopes to address this need by providing positive mentors for children of all ages.

Melissa Weaver, a program specialist who directs the school-based program in Putnam County, says the mentors must go through a selection process.

“We have a school-based program and a community-based program and it’s open to any high school student or any community member who is 18 or older,” she said. “You have to have references and applications need to be filled out, that way we can ensure that we get outstanding Bigs who make good role-models.”

Whether it’s the community or school portion, the Littles are guaranteed four hours of quality time with their Bigs a month at  a minimum.  

“The kids have an hour a week with their Big. For the school-based program, I come up with all the activities but for the community-based portion, the matches aren’t supervised and the mentors come up with the activities themselves. They meet on their own schedule,”Weaver said. “The littles are referred to us based on need. They might be referred because they get bullied a lot, aren’t doing well in school or because they just don’t fit in. Sometimes it’s because they need support while going through a situation at home.”

Weaver says there is a common misconception that Big Brothers, Big Sisters is all about helping with homework.

“People often assume this is a tutoring program,” she said. “It’s not about tutoring; it’s about a 1-to-1 relationship. Sure, they may help with the homework if it’s needed but it’s more about building a friendship. As that bond develops, the kids start to do better in school and get more involved socially.”

The program isn’t all one-on-one interaction. Weaver says they orchestrate group events throughout the year.

“We have parties and other activities. For example, we’re having a Christmas party on Dec. 29,” she said. “All the events are free, too, so it doesn’t cost the kids anything to come.”

In Putnam County, Weaver says there are currently 13 Bigs from the community portion and 46 in the school portion with 14 at Ottawa, 10 at Fort Jennings and 22 at Ottoville. Mark Waldick, Casey Miller and Rachel Beining, school-based Bigs from Ottoville High School, all have different things they love about mentoring.

Miller feels the opportunity benefits everyone involved.

“I like that we get to interact with the kids. It helps them out and it’s nice that they look forward to seeing you,” she said. “It’s also good for the community as a whole. Plus, it’s only once a week so it isn’t like it takes up all your time. It also looks nice on a college application.”

For Waldick, it’s an uplifting experience.

“It’s a nice feeling,” he said. “It’s nice to know that you’re able to help these kids and that you get the chance to make their day.”
Beining is grateful for the chance to make new friends.

“When you go to a smaller high school, you get to know everyone but you don’t get a chance to know the younger kids and I think you should be able to,” she said. “This is a really good way to get to know them and to help them at the same time.”


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