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The Dartmouth
June 17, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Big Brothers and Sisters Make a Difference

Time at Dartmouth is precious. Juggling classes and friends is hard enough without adding other activities. With this pressure on our time, it is easy to see why people want to use their time for important things, things that will make a difference. It is hard to make priorities, to choose which activities will be the best use of our time.

Becoming involved with community service really does make a difference. This summer, I had a Dartmouth Partners In Community Service internship. Through this program, I was able to work at Big Brothers/Big Sisters of New York City, a member of the national Big Brother organization. While there, I helped execute a survey of the families of the children involved in the program.

The survey made me realize what an effective thing mentoring is. I did not think that simply forming a relationship with a caring adult could make such a large difference in a child's life. I thought that more comprehensive and professional services would be required. However, the changes parents reported were astonishing and inspiring to me.

More than half of the parents noted that their child's school work had improved since they had been matched with their big brother or sister. Over sixty percent told us that their child had been more responsible and had stayed out of trouble after they developed a relationship with their big brother or sister. Most importantly, close to eighty percent of those surveyed reported significant improvement in their child's self esteem, self confidence and feelings of self worth.

This simple idea of one-to-one mentoring is extremely effective. The attention of an adult can make a crucial difference in a child's life. This study shows that any caring adult can make a significant difference in the life of a child, particularly in the child's perception of self. Other studies of children and teens definitively correlate positive self esteem with healthier social behavior, especially in the areas of substance use, law observance and sexual activity. Youths with high self esteem, self worth and confidence are far less likely to abuse alcohol or drugs, to get arrested and to become pregnant.

If a continued relationship with a mentor can increase self esteem and thus lower such problems, these relationships are extremely valuable. They are the simplest, most basic actions that can have a great effect on the success of a child.

Many people have shied away from mentoring because they are afraid that they will not be good enough. Anyone willing to take the time to truly care about a child is a good mentor.

The commitment is intense, but what comes out of it is far greater than what is put in. Each person who participates in a mentoring program makes a positive difference in somebody's life. With the simple act of mentoring, the display of caring and friendship and trust, tremendous, significant differences really can be made in people's lives.

There are many opportunities for Dartmouth students to truly make a difference in the lives of others. Dartmouth Community Services offers three mentoring programs, Big Brother/Big Sister, Book Buddies (literacy mentoring for young children) and Special Friends (for youth with special needs), in addition to other projects where Dartmouth students serve as role models.

Becoming a mentor is a serious time commitment, but it is worth it. I know each of us is busy with classes, friends and other activities but many people here could probably find an extra hour each week to read Dr. Seuss to a six-year-old targetted for possible illiteracy or find a couple of hours to be a friend to a thirteen year old who needs one. A few hours of time each week truly makes a difference in someone's life. What could be more worth your time?