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Big Brothers Big Sisters seeks new mentors for upcoming school year

Alabama State University freshman Brittani Sias said her littlesister, Khatyi, reminds her of herself when she was in thirdgrade.

That wouldn’t be so unusual if Khatyi and Brittani were bloodrelatives. Instead, Khatyi is Brittani’s Little Sister through BigBrothers Big Sisters, a program that is trying to mentor thechildren of Brookhaven.

“We read and talk about what’s going on, and we play on theplayground and stuff,” said Sias.

Being a Big Sister is important to Sias because just a few yearsago, she had a Big Sister of her own. She said it just meant a lotthat there was an adult she could spend time with and look upto.

“It was a real big part of my decision to be a Big Sister,” shesaid. “I had someone to talk to that I knew I could trust.”

Sias’ twin brother Bart was also a Little Brother, and grew upto be a mentor for his own Big Brother.

Big Brothers Big Sisters Program Specialist Cindy Ratcliff saidthese are just the kind of bonds the program is hoping to form.

“I tell these kids they’ve got to have a heart to help,” shesaid. “It’s a commitment to have a Little Brother or LittleSister.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters officials held a meeting at MamieMartin Elementary School Wednesday to address interested studentsand potential adult mentors about the upcoming school year.

Ratcliff said the program currently works off school-basedmentors, which are sophomores, juniors and seniors who meet once aweek for an hour with their Little Brothers and Little Sisters.Also, the program is always looking for adult mentors.

“The community-based program allows an adult to mentor a juniorhigh aged child, and they can come pick the child up and take themto do things like go to a movie or a ballgame,” she said.

Program Specialist Sandra Wilcher said there is a serious needfor adult mentors today, especially black male role models.

“It’s just that there are no role models for some of thesechildren, and it’s so important to a child to have approval,” shesaid. “For a young boy to have a positive male role model makes aworld of difference.”

Ratcliff agreed.

“We have a desperate need for adult black males,” she said.”Lots of little boys in this community need Big Brothers. We get soexcited when we see men come in.”

Ratcliff said the payoffs of the program are not only for thechild, but that the experience of helping a child is one that canchange a life.

“You think you’re helping the kids,” she said. “But you end uphelping yourself, too.”

Also, there are scholarships available for high school andcollege-aged mentors. Five area students recently received theChampions for Children and United Way Mentoring Scholarships. Siaswas one of them.

“I entered this program a long time ago, and winning thisscholarship means a lot to me,” she said. “I’ve been involved inthis since I was a fifth grader.”

People interested in helping with Big Brothers Big Sisters areencouraged to call Ratcliff at (601) 835-3982.