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Guest column | Susan Rolston

Become a Big Brother and help change lives

James, a bright-eyed and energetic 11-year-old, has been waiting to be matched with a "Big Brother" for more than a year. His mother approached Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas County when she realized that James needed a positive male role model in his life. With an absent father and with no brothers or uncles in the family, James has to make decisions that will ultimately determine the direction of his future without any advice from a significant male.

Since 1967, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas County has been helping our communities' most vulnerable children through the power of a relationship with a "Big Brother" or "Big Sister," giving kids the support and care they need to make good choices. When we match a carefully screened adult volunteer with a child at risk, the path to their future is repaved with hope.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas County is in dire need of mentors, especially male and minority mentors. There are more than 200 boys on our waiting list to be matched with a positive role model. More than 74 percent of our children waiting for a "Big" are boys, but only 34 out of every 100 inquiries to volunteer come from men. Now more than ever, we need male volunteers to help us, help kids.

Economic circumstances have created a greater need for more families to have professionally backed, long-term mentoring support. Single-parent homes, neighborhoods with gangs and crime, poor role models and poverty can lead a child to despair, lack of self-worth and ultimately, poor choices.

In addition, an increasing number of children are being raised by relatives who can use support and guidance when faced with raising children unexpectedly.

Mentoring is one of the most rewarding, enjoyable and simple things you will ever do. For as little as one hour a week, you can add joy to the life of a child and ultimately, contribute greatly to his or her potential. Together, Bigs and Littles do everyday activities, such as going to a sporting event, playing a game, going to a park or watching movies.

Research shows that having the positive influence of a Big Brother makes a real difference in the life of a boy. Little Brothers experience improvements in academic performance, behavior and relationships at home and elsewhere, according to independent studies. In Pinellas County, 96.5 percent of the children who have been matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister remain out of the state juvenile justice system a year later. Littles have also demonstrated better success in school with a 96 percent promotion rate to the next grade level.

You don't have to change your life to change the life of a child. Help us change the lives of boys like James and learn how you can make a difference by going to or by calling (727) 518-8860.

Susan Rolston is chief executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas County. The agency serves Pinellas, Hernando and Citrus counties.

Become a Big Brother and help change lives 06/15/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 15, 2010 3:17pm]
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