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Mentoring program pays off ‘big time’ for youth
Having a ‘Big Brother’ or ‘Big Sister’ isn’t just about going to the movies or a trip to the zoo. A mentor is an investment of time — one that will have a significant financial impact on a child’s future, according to a recent study,
Over a five-year span, the Boston Consulting Group tracked the experience of 1,000 children and teenagers registered with Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies across Canada.
The research compared the life outcomes of 500 former ‘Little Brothers’ and ‘Little Sisters,’ with a control group of individuals from similar family and economic backgrounds who did not have a ‘Big Brother’ or ‘Big Sister’ to mentor them as children.
The study found that, over their working lives, the former ‘Littles’ will earn on average $315,000 more than those in the control group.
Mary Reeves, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Langley, says while the findings of the study confirm what she’s known all along, they’ve also surpassed her expectations.
“I knew the impact was powerful, but did not expect it to be this pronounced,” she said, of the results comprised of four categories of differential life outcomes: employment, philanthropy, life skills and general well-being.
Participants in Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring programs were also significantly more likely to give generously to charitable causes and volunteer their time to community work.
They also achieved more positive life outcomes in the categories of life skills and personal well-being.
“We always knew what we did had a huge impact, but it’s been difficult to prove or quantify up until now, “ said Reeves.
“For us, this study is huge — it gives us reassurance that what we do matters. It also shows that prevention is a lot cheaper in the long run.”
Serving as role models, volunteer mentors teach by example the importance of giving back, staying in school and having respect for family, peers and community.
“A lot of these kids tell us they look forward to that visit with their ‘Big’ all week long. In some cases, it’s what keeps them going through the week,” said Reeves.
“It’s really amazing what it does for them. They really blossom.”
In the past, it was largely lone-parent families who took part in the program — a demographic that is changing, notes Reeves.
“You now see more of the working poor and also more grandparents, aunts, uncles and extended family looking after a child.”
Recently, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Langley placed in the top 10 per cent out of 125 agencies across the country for its long-term match retention — the right match makes a world of difference, according to Reeves.
“It’s not just about having someone to spend time with — it’s about spending time with someone with similar interests and values.”
Big Sister Kellie Dale and her ‘Little’ Robin Dejonge are an example of a ‘perfect’ match.
When Dale first considered becoming a Big Sister, she worried she wouldn’t have enough time to spare.
Ten years later, the Langley resident couldn’t imagine her life without Robin — the inseparable duo currently work together in Dale’s insurance office. They’re also headed to Russia in January to volunteer for the Olympics.
“I’d say we’re the best of friends now,” laughed Dale, who joined Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Langley as a volunteer mentor back in 2004.
In addition to providing mentorship over the years to Robin, who comes from a single-parent household, Dale has also benefited from the match.
“Just having that relationship with a young mind, helping to develop what they’re learning — also you learn and get to do things you normally wouldn’t do. You gain so much perspective.”
Dale encourages other men and women with a few hours a week to spare, to consider becoming a ‘Big Brother’ or ‘Big Sister.’
“It’s really not a lot of time once you get started in it,” she noted.
“It’s just a few hours to connect.”
While Dale isn’t certain whether it was her involvement that has helped shape Robin’s character, which she calls “determined and ambitious,” she isn’t surprised by the results of the Boston study.
“Sometimes things don’t happen for young children ... people just need someone to put out a hand and they can take it from there,” she said.
“Robin is a phenomenal young girl, a real hard worker. I don’t know if I would have made a difference — I think she was made that way because she’s such a joy.”
Despite Dale’s modesty, Dejonge says that having a ‘Big Sister’ has had a role in shaping her into the young woman of 19 that she is today.
“A lot of her good traits have definitely rubbed off on me,” she said.
For more about Big Brothers Big Sisters of Langley, visit www.bbbslangley.com, or call 604-530-5055.
• 68 per cent reported being employed full time, compared to 58 per cent among those in the control group. The BBBS participants were also significantly more likely to have higher full-time salaries (average: $59,600 versus $52,700);
• 66 per cent self-reported volunteering for community service versus 43 per cent among those in the control group. The BBBS participants reported an average of 95 hours of community service per year compared to 73 hours;
• Almost eight in 10 BBBS participants (77 per cent) self-reported they donate to charities compared to 67 per cent among those in the control group;
• Average annual charitable donations were also higher ($395 versus $329);
• 80 per cent self-reported pursuing a healthy lifestyle versus 72 per cent among those in the control group;
• 81 per cent self-reported being financially literate compared to 70 per cent;
• 47 per cent self-reported being a senior leader in their working environment compared to 32 per cent;
• 42 per cent strongly agreed that they were a happy person, compared to 26 per cent of those in the control group;
• 52 per cent strongly agreed that they make good life choices versus 39 per cent;
• 42 per cent strongly agreed that they had a strong network of family and friends compared to 28 per cent