When Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati began a school-based program in Indiana, it started with eight children in two schools.
Five-and-a-half years later, more than 10 times that number are paired with volunteer mentors in seven schools including Harrison Elementary and Harrison Junior School, said Laura Rolf, Greater Cincinnati community development director.
Now, thanks to funding from two foundations that recognize the importance of mentoring, the agency has increased the number of children served by 28 percent, she said.
The Greater Cincinnati Foundation and Interact for Health (formerly the Health Foundation) teamed with Big Brothers Big Sisters to fund an expansion of the program in Harrison, Lawrenceburg, Greendale and Aurora, said Rolf.
Interact for Health committed $60,000 over three years and the Greater Cincinnati Foundation approved $25,000 for this year.
“It was very important to us that this is school-related and fills a specific need. We know that having a mentor has a positive impact on young people, and helps set them up for success,” said Helen Mattheis, Greater Cincinnati Foundation.
GCF also appreciates the opportunity to collaborate with Interact For Health and serve the Indiana and Harrison communities, she said.
Ann Barnum, senior program officer for Interact For Health, said the Indiana/Harrison project has connections with adults, teens and younger children.
“This kind of mentoring is helpful for both teens and the young people they’re paired with in regards to making healthy choices,” she said.
Kristi Eberhart, who coordinates the Indiana/Harrison school programs for Big Brothers Big Sisters, said the organizations are contributing to a program with a proven track record.
“We have seen grades and attendance, attitude and behavior, all improve when these children are paired with mentors. One-on-one, professionally supported mentoring makes a difference,” she said.
As Eberhart works to pair more children with mentors, the need for volunteers continues. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati serves children in Southeastern Indiana, Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, and has 400 children on a waiting list for mentors.
Volunteers can be paired with a child in a school or site-based program, or community-based mentoring.
Find information about volunteering or donating at www.bigsforkids.org or call Rolf at 1-812-637-1235.