Changing the Lives of Children at Mary McGuire through Mentorship
For many children, one strong role model can be the difference between thriving and simply surviving. Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Great Lakes Bay Region is on a mission to provide at-risk youth in our community with supportive relationships. They recently transformed their one-to-one mentoring program at Mary McGuire Elementary through innovative curriculum and mentor training, spurring a greater impact for mentors, mentees, and families.
The new curriculum includes themes focused on empathy, growth mindset, reflective listening, resilience, self-esteem, confrontation skills, and gratitude by presenting them in a fun, kid-friendly way over the course of 24 weeks. Whether making breathing wands to discuss controlling emotions or teaching empathy by making blankets for a nonprofit, the weekly lessons cultivated skills in children who are less likely to learn them in their everyday lives.
With help from the Kimber and Judy Dewitt Family Fund, Myler Family Community Impact Fund, and Kellogg Youth Fund, Big Brothers Big Sisters was able to provide their 23 Bigs (volunteer mentors) with the knowledge, tools, and support necessary for success in their matches at Mary McGuire. They accomplished this through a full-day training that discussed successful mentoring practices and focused on empathy, reflective listening, and effective confrontation. In addition, each Big received a Mentor Training Guide which included mentor mini lessons, weekly curriculum lessons, skills sheets, and outcome surveys.
Big Brothers Big Sisters also involved Central Michigan University in mentorship and education. Medical students provided eight days of lessons about healthy eating and the effects of sugar, including a Big/Little relay to encourage physical activity. In addition, a college student group facilitated Valentine’s Day activities with mentors and mentees.
At-risk youth in these programs reported improved success at school, higher self-esteem, and increased social acceptance. After these promising results, Big Brothers Big Sisters is working to expand the program to other schools and create a more sustainable funding model so more children in our community can experience the benefits of mentorship.