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Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
April 29, 2011

This organization brings out the light in children through adults who care enough to say "You can do it." I was matched May of 2007. The program, Native American Scholars, was brand new at BBBS of the Sioux Empire, and created to increase graduation rates among Native students. I felt the program called to me; being Native myself, and struggled through most of life, I could see easily how mentoring could make a difference in a child's life. My Little, Tiffany, has just turned 14, and was quite the firecracker. We had a lot of rough starts; she was from an impoverished and broken family, with minimal hope of overcoming heavy obstacles. If she made it to 12th grade - heck, if she made it to 10th grade - it would be a means to celebrate. To say it bluntly, I had no clue how I was going to help this kid. I had been a troubled youth myself, but under totally different circumstances. Still, four years later, I look back on our time together and she has out-distanced every expectation placed upon her. She'll graduate in 19 days (yes, we're on a daily count-down). She'll be 18 in just over a week. To say that I'm proud of her is putting it mildly; she's watched her friends drop out of school, or get pregnant, or go to jail. More than one has committed suicide. She's gone through juvenile detention, rape crisis, counseling... And yet she'll walk across the stage at her graduation as one of the few high school graduates and the only college matriculator in her immediate family (she'll attend Dakota State University beginning this summer!!!!!). She's made it. She'll tell you she never would have made it this far without me, but that's not true. She always had it in her. If I've done anything, it's that I've pointed out the obvious and been the broken record: "You can do it." My job in all this has been pretty easy. It's Tiffany who has shined. If all a kid needs to hear in life to accomplish goals is "You can do it," then I see no reason why more volunteers can't come forth to help a child realize his or her potential. Big Brothers Big Sisters was the catalyst that connected Tiffany and me together for life. They provided realistic advice that kept our relationship functioning, even through the bad times, and offered valuable resources (counseling, school supplies, test fees, etc.) to Tiffany when her guardians or I were unable. I am thankful for the opportunity they provided.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

I have worked for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sioux Empire since March 2008, nearly a year after I began volunteering for the organization. I had been working as a newspaper reporter/photographer, and was asked by the previous program manager to fill her role as she took a local teaching position. I didn't hesitate to say yes. Helping children to see the light inside themselves is a job I'm thankful to have each and every day. That I am able to mentor a beautiful young adult is a bonus.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Provide more supervised group activities (including transportation/meals) for youth when their mentors/parents are unable to participate. Currently, mentors are required to spend just 2-4 hours (at a minimum) with a child each month and are often time-starved, multi-leveled individuals who can't spend more than that. These kids need more positive interaction, and a safe, secure, group-mentoring aspect is highly needed for at-risk youth.

More feedback

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Life-changing

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Quite well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

What one change could this group make that would improve your volunteer experience?

Recognition rewards/incentives. Honoring banquet/dinners.

Did your volunteer experience have an effect on you? (teaching you a new skill, or introducing new friends, etc.)

Of course. I have a lifelong "Little Sister" in Tiffany.

How did this volunteer experience make you feel?

Needed. Valuable.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

MY ROLE:
Volunteer & I have mentored Tiffany since 2007; a year later I began working for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sioux Empire.