Commentary: Become a mentor because children are more than statistics

Commentary: Become a mentor because children are  more than statistics
January 21
00:00 2016
Photo By Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository
Saturday Scholar Mentor Pfc. Mathew Alexander, from Hendersonville, N.C., plays tick-tack-toe with a West Pensacola Elementary School Saturday Scholar student.

Meridith Whitaker

Guest Columnist 

I remember meeting my first Little Sister for the first time. I picked her up at the same middle school that I had attended as a child.

I remember standing in the lobby and noticing the decorative ceiling tiles that had been hand painted by students. Out of all the tiles in the ceiling, I was startled to recognize my own artwork from years ago hanging in the ceiling directly above us. We stood together, a shy 13-year-old and a recent college graduate from completely different backgrounds, recognizing the serendipity of the moment. It was the perfect start to a friendship full of memorable moments.

I signed up to become a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters because I wanted to help a child succeed. We see the statistics; poverty rates are high, kids can’t read, they are dropping out of high school, joining gangs, being bullied and engaging in dangerous activities like drug and alcohol use. We see these statistics and we want to do something, but it’s hard. We do not know where to start in order to combat these systemic, widespread, complex issues.

I’m convinced there is no quick fix. But what if we changed our perspective from analyzing the statistics to getting involved in each other’s lives? Being a mentor doesn’t mean you’ll solve the problem of bullying; but it means that one child will have a listening ear and an advocate to help him gain confidence.

Being a mentor doesn’t mean you’ll eradicate poverty in our community; but it means you’ll spend quality time with a child once a week, giving one overworked mom peace of mind.

Being a mentor doesn’t mean you’ll see the high school dropout rate plummet; but it does mean that one child will have a tutor, confidant and encourager through her years in school.

If each of us walks beside of one child, we will see the statistics slowly change for the better. It happens when we understand that “success” for children goes much deeper than what the charts and graphs show.

Children are not problems to be solved; they are unique individuals with their own talents and skills who could benefit from the guidance, friendship, and positive influences of someone like you in their lives.

January is National Mentoring Month, so I encourage you to take this opportunity to move past the statistics. Stop analyzing what’s wrong with your community and take a step toward improving it by becoming a mentor. If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll gain special friendships, new perspectives, and more memories than you can count.

Meridith Whitaker is a nonprofit professional and freelance writer. She volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters as a mentor and as a member of the Bigs Council, an advisory board which advocates on behalf of the organization. To learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters, visit or call 336-724-7993.


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