Mentors hope ‘to bring magic’ to youngsters

Published 5:00 am Friday, July 26, 2002

A mix of people from high school and college students to apolice officer, accountants and teachers learned Thursday how theycan “bring magic to a child’s life” during the upcoming schoolyear.

More than 30 people used their lunch hour to learn about being amentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mississippi school-basedprogram.

“This program is unique in that it allows you to mentor duringschool hours because a lot of people are busy in the afternoons andon the weekends with their own families,” said Maxine Jones,manager of the Brookhaven program.

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Through the program, mentors become Big Brothers or Big Sistersto children who have been identified by school officials as needingguidance and personalized attention.

Jones explained that mentors spend a minimum of one hour perweek assisting their “Little Sister” or “Little Brother” inachieving their highest potential as they grow to become confident,competent and caring individuals.

“The impact that you have on these children’s lives is profound.You really make a difference,” said Jones to the group gathered atMartin Elementary School.

The “Bigs” and “Littles” enjoy activities such as conversation,recreation and tutoring in a school setting throughout theyear.

Jones talked with the group about how those type activitiescreate a fun, quality time for the mentor and students.

Mentors learned the importance of tuning in to their child’sinterests and hobbies. The extra attention given to the students isoften all they need to improve grades, social skills andconfidence.

Since most of the mentors attending the workshop were new, Joneshad them participate in group activities to gather ideas from oneanother, such as how to break the ice on the first visit.

“I love to ask kids what they want to be when they grow up,”said Kellie Patti, who has to “break the ice” daily while workingin a dental practice with her husband.

The students will also help ease the tension on the first day ofmentoring by taking their mentor on a tour of their respectiveschools.

As the group continued to talk about creative ways to motivatethe “Littles,” some of the veteran mentors shared their successstories.

Dr. Marilyn Dow-Harris had a “Little” with a discipline problem,so to motivate her child to behave in class she asked the “Little”to get a note from her teacher reporting her behavior.

“For two weeks she kept telling me she had been good, but I toldher I had to hear it from the teacher,” she said. “So the nexttime, she ran up to me and said, ‘I’ve been good, and I’ve got thenote from my teacher.'”

Jones said those types of rewarding moments where the “Little”wants to do well for their “Big” makes the volunteers’ timeworthwhile.

She was delighted about the receptiveness of all the mentorsfrom this week’s workshop and one held last week, where 27 peoplesigned up to be mentors.

“I think it went really well. I was very pleased with theturnout and the response,” said Jones.

Big Brothers Big Sisters case worker Susie Patrick hopes otherswill want to join the effort to make a difference in a child’s lifeand change Brookhaven for the better.

“We’ve got room for more mentors. There’s still a lot of kidswho need mentors,” she said.

To find out more about mentoring in the Big Brothers Big Sistersof Mississippi, call Maxine Jones or Susie Patrick at 835-3982.