This year, the Boys & Girls Club Lehi Branch has started a new partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona (BBBSAZ). The Native American Mentoring initiative of BBBSAZ is working to expand its mentoring efforts to enroll more Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community youth and match them with Native adult mentors, and so far the organizations have made 15 matches.
“Within our program we have a mentorship for youth 6 to 18 years old, and we have a tribal community-based program where kids are matched up with mentors,” said Bobbi Rose Nez, the Stars Program specialist and tribal partnership coordinator for BBBSAZ.
Volunteer mentors go through a screening process and the youth are interviewed so the staff can make an accurate match for both. During the youth and mentor interviews, the organization tries to find common hobbies or interests to help make good matches between the mentors and children.
After the mentors and youth have had their first meetings, “We provide what we call match support, where I ask the [adult volunteers] and [the children] how everything is going with each other, and if there are any suggestions that they have or if they feel safe and comfortable in the program,” said Nez. “So far we received a lot of feedback on how they are enjoying the program and activities.”
The mentors (Bigs) and students (Littles) are limited to meeting at the Lehi Branch only. For this Native American Mentoring program, they meet every other Wednesday at the club. Students from Mesa Community College’s Intertribal Student Organization and a Lehi Branch high school member are serving as the mentors. “We asked the mentors to make a commitment to the children for the whole school year, through May,” said Nez.
Each youth has his or her own mentor; they don’t share that mentor with anyone else. The BBBSAZ really focuses on providing that one-on-one time because some youth might not be getting it at home for whatever reason, perhaps because of parental demands from other siblings or family dynamics.
“A lot of the youth need that one-on-one time with the mentors. We tell them that they are going to have that hour with their mentors, and [the mentors] are going to want to know how they are doing in school [and what’s happening in their lives],” said Nez. “I think that’s a benefit in itself.”
For each meeting, first 45 minutes are spent on an activity coordinated by the Boys & Girls Club and BBBSAZ, and the remaining 15 minutes are spent with the matches eating dinner at Kid’s Café. The youth make an education goal, a relationship goal and a social goal. Every time they set a goal, they review their last goal to see if they have achieved it, and go from there.
The organizations held their second session recently and are excited about the impact the program is having on the Boys & Girls Club members. “The families that have enrolled their children have really liked the program so far,” said Tamara DelMar, supervisor of the Lehi branch.
Nez believes this is the first time the BBBSAZ has had a specific site-based program in the Community. “We have another site-based program that is located in Fort McDowell [serving the youth of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation], but with that one we have high school students matched up with the kids. That one has been going on for three years.
“Our kids look forward to seeing their Big Brothers and Big Sisters as they spend quality time with a Native role model in a fun and exciting way. It’s really been a goal of ours to implement a successful mentorship program, and so far this partnership has gone really well.”
“Nez, the BBBSAZ tribal liaison, has spent so much time guaranteeing successful matches and really would like to expand further into the Native community,” said DelMar.
The BBBSAZ serves Central Arizona, including Pinal, Gila and Maricopa counties as well as the tribes within the counties.
For more information on the Native American Mentoring initiative, contact the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale, Lehi Branch, at (480) 850-4453 or http://lehibranch.bgcs.org; or the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona at www.HelpArizonaYouth.org.