Making a difference
For a few months now, Asa Gottsponer, a student at Garden City High School, has been mentoring a little brother through Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Posted by Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Finney County on 1/13/2010
By MONICA SPRINGER
They went to Christmas events in Garden City, and when the weather gets warmer, Gottsponer said he will take his little brother outside to play sports.
Gottsponer said more people should volunteer to become mentors, particularly high school students.
"They really enjoy having a big brother or big sister," he said of the children in the program. "It's somebody to look up to."
January is National Mentoring Month, and Kansans are being encouraged to volunteer to mentor as part of the campaign.
Research has shown that mentoring has a significant economic and social impact -- reducing youth drug abuse and violence while greatly enhancing a young person's prospects for graduating high school and leading a healthy, productive life, according to Kansas Mentors, a program run by the state.
Locally, people have several different options available if they want to mentor a child. Among the organizations people can get involved in are Big Brothers Big Sisters, Girl Scouts and Spirit of the Plains, CASA.
"It's about friendship and teaching social skills," said Tammy Davis, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Finney and Kearny counties.
The program helps hundreds of children both in and out of school each year, Davis said, through school-based and community programs.
"Paying attention always makes a difference in a child's life," Davis said. "Kids' faces just light up."
Mentors in the school-based program volunteer each week and help the child with homework at their school. But Davis said the lessons children learn extend beyond the school work.
"It's not just about math and reading. It affects their whole life," Davis said.
Mentoring also affects the community, Davis said, because when kids succeed and continue their education, the community benefits from educated individuals.
Volunteers also benefit when they see that a child is happy and excited to spend time with them, Davis said.
This year marks the ninth annual campaign to increase the amount of mentors in the state and share gratitude with those already serving time to the community's youth. General Colin L. Powell is headlining the nationwide campaign.
"Nothing is more important to our nation's future than preparing our children to lead productive and fulfilling lives," Powell said in a press release. "You can play an important part by volunteering as a mentor. It doesn't require special skills, just a willingness to listen and to care."
Kansans can celebrate National Mentoring Month by learning more about mentoring at www.KansasMentors.org or by signing up to mentor with a local program. For more information, visit www.KansasMentors.org or call the Kansas Mentors office at (785) 296-8873.
For more information: www.KansasMentors.org