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Mentoring through Big Brothers Big Sisters or another organization


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Hello folks,

Happy holidays! I am just wondering if anyone has any experience with mentoring through Big Brothers Big Sisters or another organization. That is something I would like to pursue. I enjoy learning about people (in this case, children and adolescents), spending time with them, and lending support to promote their growth. Indeed, building relationships with students and colleagues, nurturing growth (of the intellectual and professional kind, usually) is one of the primary reasons I've sought a career in academia. Mentoring a child/teenager is simply consistent with this goal.

I'm specifically concerned about the qualifications needed to be effective. I'd like to believe that I have skills/resources/etc. that could be an asset to another human being and to the community at large, but there are plenty of people who would say otherwise. As much as I'm motivated to forge bonds with other people and extend support, I was never the brightest in class or easy to look at, and I didn't come from a wealthy family or go to elite schools. I also have a history of a stigmatized illness, and I'm anxious this may show up on my application. But it's possible that my mentee just wouldn't care about that.

I guess I have this impression that Big Brothers and Sisters are model citizens--effortlessly perfect. But that can't be true, or is it? What would qualify one to be a "role model" short of perfection, whatever that means? The website for BBBS says that mentors are regular people, and that the only real qualification is a desire to positively impact a young person. I would like to believe that!

In any case, if any of you would like to share your thoughts or anecdotes, I would love to hear what you think. Thanks very much, and all the best!

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I have mentored for years. Not through Big Brothers/Sisters, but through a school program. I am certainly not a perfect person. Plus I have no money and I didn't grow up as "well off" as other people. I was a non-traditional student as an undergrad. I worked hard and fought like crazy to make my way through. So I suppose I have that going in my favor. I'm not a very extroverted person, but a lot of the high school students in the program aren't either.

A good mentor doesn't have to be perfect. A good mentor is someone who is caring and reliable. The program I'm in usually tries to match people up who have similar personalities and interests. You won't always get a good match, but when you do it can lead to a very strong relationship. You are someone they can talk to, sometimes about things they feel they can't tell their parents or teachers. It is something that can be wonderful at times, but not so wonderful at other times. So my advice is to keep an open mind and don't have any expectations. Don't try to force anything on them, just guide them. Hopefully that helps.

Edited by robot_hamster
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Chime on the reliability! That's really what at-risk kids need: an adult role model who has it together and will show up for them. Just modeling what a put-together person looks like can be eye-opening for some kids. I think of a friend of my sister's who lived with us for a little while. When she came over to my father's place for dinner, she was amazed that we had a good relationship with our stepmother, since (from her own experience) she didn't know that was possible. We had no idea.

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My friend is currently a Big Sister and she loves it. She is not a perfect person (P.S. no one is, so please don't think you have to be), but she is fun, loving, and engaging. As we're grad students, she doesn't have a lot of money to toss around and sticks to things like craft projects and trips to the park. I'm sorry I don't know more about the process personally, but after every "date" with her Little, my friend is beaming with happiness and can't wait to tell us about her day :)

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