Vigo County Big Brothers Big Sisters needs mentors

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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – Big Brothers Big Sisters Of Vigo County Tuesday launched a campaign to get more mentors to sign up. The Agency announced it would look for “30 Bigs for 30 Days.” According to agency leaders about 40 ‘littles’ were in need of a sibling at the campaign’s start.

At a home on Terre Haute’s northside around dinnertime Wednesday, Shamika Mayes, and her daughter, Ja’Miah Dodd sat around the table in their kitchen. The Big Brothers Big Sisters campaign had deep routes in the family, as mother Shamika was once a little sister, and now daughter Ja’Miah was enrolled in the program as a little sister. Ja’Miah patiently sat waiting for her big sister to arrive, to head out for plans later that evening.

Although Ja’Miah and her big sister had been matched up since the summer, agency organizers noted more kids were looking for a mentor. “30 Bigs in 30 Days, we are looking for mentors in the community to help our children on our wait list. We have about 40 children in the Wabash Valley on the wait list, waiting for a mentor” said Holly Mullinex, former case manager, and current program director.

The agency, according to its website, looks to help children grow to their greatest potential. “[The agency] hopes to build professionally-supported dynamic relationships which unite children with committed volunteers, transforming their lives and enriching families and and communities.”

Mullinex pointed out that the matching process involves an interview process for potential bigs, including, personality traits, interests, a criminal background and professional references check. For littles, a similar process involves learning about the child’s needs, personality traits and interests.

Enter Ashton. Ashton Matthews, an Indiana State University student, said she first found out she enjoyed working with children through her college major. Matthews and Ja’Miah were matched with one another over the summer, and began their friendship in the fall of 2013. Matthews found a spot on the couch with Ja’Miah and talked about their friendship. “She loves to dance,” said Matthews, “She likes Miley Cyrus.” Ja’Miah sat quiet and bashful, but smiled with big brown eyes when Matthews started talking about the things they enjoyed doing together.

“We went to the park, we go to WalMart, or just go out to eat, or we go back to my place a lot and I help her with homework,” added Matthews, as the two were getting Ja’Miah’s things ready to head out the door.

Ja’Miah Dodd is a second generation little sister. Her mother, Shamika Mayes also enjoyed the program as a young person. Mayes sat in a chair next to the couch where Ja’Miah and Ashton were temporarily parked. Mayes remembered her big sister as a “college teacher” with “big glasses” just like hers, noting the connection made her feel comfortable about starting the relationship with the mentor.

Mayes said her big sister helped her to “think outside of the box.” She also noted, time with her big was eye opening because she learned more about “interracial, and international lifestyles.” But unlike her daughter’s experience, Mayes also recalled her experience came at an uncertain time, she considered dropping out of school, but the mentor talked her into staying.

“My experience with my big sister, it was life changing … if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be where I am now,” said Mayes. Apparently, the positive influence in Mayes’ experience transcended generations, and continues to have life changing influence on her daughter. “It’s great, her grades have improved, she always talks about Ashton, that’s how I was with my big sister, she gets to learn different things, and experience, and open her mind to outside the box,” said Mayes.

And the positive feelings don’t stop with Shamika, or Ja’Miah, “I thought I would be brightening her day everyday and just kind of being fun for her, but it’s really been an amazing experience for me too,” said Matthews. The Mayes, Dodd, Matthews story is only one that reflects that power of the Big Brothers Big Sisters agency.

According to its website, Big Brothers Big Sisters gets results. “National studies show the positive impact between mentoring and youth development. 46% are less likely to begin using drugs. 27% are less likely to begin using alcohol. 33% are less likely to bully or hit someone. 52% are less likely to skip school. 37% are less likely to skip a class.”

However, all of this, wouldn’t be possible without willing volunteers ready to make a change in a young person’s life. That’s why the agency launched its “30 Days, 30 Bigs” campaign. To get more people on board to help change lives with a positive impact.

To learn how to sign up click here.

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