Helping yourself while helping others
For over 100 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) has worked to improve the lives and futures of thousands of children by “matching” them with adults willing to volunteer a few hours each month as mentors. These one-to-one relationships help children by promoting their self-esteem, expanding their awareness of life’s opportunities, and providing them with guidance and support. In BBBS lingo, adult mentors are referred to as “bigs” while their younger counterparts are referred to as “littles”.
Tatiana Cabral-Smith is the Coordinator of Caminos al Éxito for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Coastal Empire, a three-year school based mentoring program for Latino students (between the ages of 11-16) whose goal is to keep the students in school and guide them towards college. The program is available to Hispanic students attending Garden City Elementary, Mercer Middle School, and Groves High School.
The program began in Fall 2011 and is funded by The Goizueta Foundation.
Last month, the mentoring program sponsored an education workshop in the community center at the Savannah Pines Mobile Home Park in Garden City. University educator, Dr. Veronikha Salazar, and Luis Ruiz, a y outh development coordinator with the YMCA and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, gave their audience of young students detailed advice on how to prepare themselves for college.
Smith provided La Voz Latina with an update on the program's first year in Savannah.
“The school year is done and we definitely met our first-year goals by matching 16 mentors with children,” she said. “For this upcoming school year, we'll need 25 volunteers to be matched with 25 students.”
This spring the Georgia Association of BBBS produced an inspirational video on the campus of Savannah's Armstrong Atlantic State University (AASU) that highlighted the successful pairing of college students from AASU's Hispanic Outreach and Leadership at Armstrong (HOLA) program with “littles” from the surrounding community.
“Camino Al Éxito has greatly benefited from partnering with HOLA,” Smith said. “ HOLA Director, Melody Rodriguez, has been instrumental in telling the students about us and the HOLA students have been great mentors to the children in our program.”
Some of the HOLA students shared their experiences as BBBS mentors on the video which can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgPPQydknnI
Big brother, Yair Muñoz: “It's really been a great experience for me because, when you're growing up, if you don't have role models or someone close to you to give you support then its more difficult to get adjusted to school.
Big brother, Freddy Torres: “You think maybe you don't have the knowledge or experience to be a mentor but mentoring is actually an experience in itself. And by mentoring somebody you actually learn a lot about yourself as well.”
Big sister, Kattelie Thys: “Being a big sister has been the most amazing experience I've ever had in my life. With my “little” we have so much stuff we enjoy together. When Tatiana matched me with her it was just perfect like we were meant to be together.
Melody Rodriguez noted the benefits HOLA students derived from their BBBS partnerships.
“It's been amazing to see our college students transformed as a result of serving as a “big” and mentoring a younger “little”. It's very inspirational to see them grow and be connected and feel pride that they are contributing to our community by being a mentor. It's also changing their own personal lives by making them stronger leaders.”
If you are willing to commit just one hour per week to helping a Latino child succeed in school and in life, please contact Tatiana Cabral-Smith today at 912.508.5744 (Spanish) or 912.233.7669 (English) or by email at email@example.com
Volunteers must be at least 18-years-old, agree to a background check, provide references, and complete the BBBS Orientation and Interview process.