This holiday season, I encourage everyone to make a small gift of time that pays huge dividends for our community: mentor an at-risk child. As Nevada continues ranking among the bottom 10 states for education and unemployment rates, economic development continues to be a primary focus for our community’s leaders. And we can all pitch in by becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister — mentoring a child in need — which has been shown to negate the negative indicators that plague our state.
How will we ensure we have a ready workforce, when almost 20 percent of children in our area grow up in poverty and remain at risk for truancy, delinquency, and failure to graduate from high school? We need these young people to drive our economy forward. We need them to perform the myriad of jobs that will be available in health care, technology, energy resources, mining, and other industrial sectors. Most importantly, we want them to be successful contributing members of society and our community.
BBBS mentoring model works
As a member of the Advisory Board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern Nevada (BBBSNN), I urge community leaders, professionals, college students and adult residents to become a Big Brother or Big Sister, and help children facing adversity succeed in life. All the children BBBSNN serves are living in poverty, most in single-parent households and many with an incarcerated parent.
With more than 110 years of experience, the Big Brothers Big Sisters model of one-to-one mentoring has a proven track record of success breaking the cycle of poverty and risky behavior. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention conducted a review of mentoring programs and found the Big Brothers Big Sisters was the only program to be extensively evaluated and demonstrably capable of reducing drug use and delinquency.
In June 2015, 86 percent of age-eligible Little Brothers and Sisters graduated from high school in Washoe County, compared to 65 percent of similarly disadvantaged students without mentors. This statistic merits attention, as the effort continues to improve Nevada’s ranking in high school completion. Yearly metrics show mentored youth are inspired to attend school, achieve better grades, graduate and become self-sufficient adults.
Mentoring is not a burden
A mentor is asked to spend just one hour each week with his or her “Little”. Playing ball, taking a hike, sitting in a park, talking or reading together are simple acts of friendship that mean a great deal to a child whose home may be a motel room, who has a parent in prison, or whose mother works several jobs to put food on the table.
To take the guesswork out of mentoring, the agency provides free and low-cost activities, as well as a list of “101 Things to do With Your Little.” This list makes appreciating the many activities and events in our area easy, like donated tickets to Bighorns or Aces games, free concerts in the park, visits to museums and snowshoeing or ski trips.
Sign up today
So during this wonderful time of year, hold your family and friends close, and remember those who are less fortunate: children right here in our community who just need some positive guidance and attention. Your time with a Little Brother or Sister doesn’t just mean a happier holiday or brighter future for them. Your time is a direct investment in a strong, sustainable future for our community where we all thrive. If we intend to have a pipeline of young adults who are career-ready and eager to support themselves, their own families and contribute to our economic sustainability, we need mentors.
I urge you to contact Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern Nevada today. After all, what’s an hour each week if you make a lifelong friend, a difference in a child’s life, and change our community for the better, forever? Become a Big Brother or Big Sister today by visiting www.bbbsnn.org or calling 775-352-3202.
Tim R. Ruffin is Managing Director Colliers International, 2013 Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and BBBSNN Advisory Board Member