When a child in need is matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister, it doesn't take long to notice the changes: parents say their children start focusing on school work, they get along better with their siblings, and - best of all - they start talking about the future.
I asked a group of parents, “Why? Why do your children respond so quickly and dramatically to this one friend in their life?” One parent said, “That's easy. They start to feel accountable.”
The parents went on to explain that their children might scoot under the radar in a classroom, on a soccer team, or in a social group; but when the Big Brother or Big Sister is around, the spotlight unavoidably shines on the child. Then something starts.
One Little Brother started wearing his hair like his Big Brother. A Little Sister confidently reported to her BBBS match support specialist that she wants to be an attorney, just like her Big Sister.
The results are even more dramatic when the children get older. One Little Brother, now in college and on the honor roll, told his Big Brother he intends to major in criminal justice. He knows where he'd be if it weren't for that friend called a “Big Brother.” And he wants to do what he can to steer others in the right direction.
That same Little Brother once challenged us with a question. “What would happen to this community if every kid like me had someone like my Big Brother?”
Here's what can happen:
Children who have a Big Brother or Big Sister are more likely to graduate from college than their own parents were to graduate from high school. Think of the thousands who could graduate.
Consider, too, the special challenges faced by the children of deployed military personnel. They have the added burden of worrying about their parents' well being, wondering when and if they'll return home. Think of the void Big Brothers and Big Sisters can fill - giving peace of mind to our soldiers, and providing guidance and opportunity to the children left behind.
Children matched with Big Brothers and Big Sisters have far more earning potential than those of a similar demographic who aren't as fortunate. Imagine a dramatically better- educated, higher-earning workforce.
Children with Big Brothers and Big Sisters are far more likely to serve their community by volunteering, or by joining the military. They become leaders.
So we need not wring our hands, wondering whether we are capable of doing anything to help more children go to college, to help boost our local economy, or to help raise a generation of leaders. The answer - as one parent so aptly put it - lies in the accountability that starts when one child gains one friend: a Big Brother or Big Sister.
Learn how you can start something:
Chief Executive Officer
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kentuckiana