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Young mentors set good example to follow

One hour a week is making a difference here.

That’s what potential volunteers for the Big Brothers BigSisters of Mississippi were told at a meeting Thursday.

Last year, the first for the program in the Brookhaven SchoolDistrict, 100 students were matched with 100 volunteer mentors.

“In less than six months, 86 percent of the children showedimproved self-esteem, according to their teachers,” Maxine Jones,program manager, told the group at Mamie Martin School.

The 32 who attended yesterday’s meeting were a mix of young andold, black and white, male and female.

Some of those young volunteers set a standard of excellence withtheir work and have been recognized for their efforts. That’s whatgot my attention about this particular program.

If you remember, Brookhaven High School students Lacy Gaskin,David Russell, Catrice Stribling, Andrea Smith, Ashley Smith andAmy Nguyen were recognized in June by the Mississippi MentoringNetwork and state Attorney General Mike Moore.

Gaskin and Russell were awarded $5,000 scholarships, two of thefive given to Mississippians. The total amount of scholarshipsgiven to the Brookhaven students was $17,500.

“I feel so completely undeserving because all I did was make anew friend,” Gaskin said at the time. “It was so good for me togive up my time and my heart this year. Life means nothing if youcan’t say you loved someone.”

Gaskin, and the other young volunteers, have certainly beenleading by example.

Mentors are asked to spend at least one hour a week with achild, giving some special attention to a little boy or girl.Because the program is school based, all visits are conducted atthe child’s school. Off-campus activities are not allowed.

When Maxine Jones asked the volunteer “bigs” Thursday to thinkabout two things they could do with the “littles,” I immediatelythought of helping with homework and reading.

But, she pointed out, mentoring is not all about tutoring. It’smore about giving some positive attention to a child who needs it.Mentors and mentees often play games and just have funtogether.

Statistics show that we Mississippians need to be helping eachother out more than we do. In the year 2000, 19 percent of thebabies born in this state were born to teenage mothers. Many ofthese children are likely to be ones in need of a mentor in thefuture.

Just think how much better off Mississippi would be if everycommunity had 10 Lacey Gaskins, David Russells, Catrice Striblings,Andrea Smiths, Ashley Smiths and Amy Nguyens.

Let’s follow their example. If you would like to work in thementoring program, call 835-3982.

Write to Nanette Laster at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, Miss.39601, or send e-mail to news@dailyleader.com.