By DAVID JONES
MARVELOUS MENTORS: Judy Vredenburgh, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, recently visited Tulsa to talk about the national study conducted on school-based mentoring programs, like Big Brothers Big Sisters. With her is John W. Jacobs, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma.
DAVID JONES for GTR Newspapers
After eight years, America’s BIG big sister made it to the Sooner State. Judy Vredenburgh, president and chief executive officer for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America, came to Tulsa to look at the local chapter of BBBS of Oklahoma and was impressed by what she saw.
“Tulsa is one of the best-run, high-impact areas in the United States,” she says.
Nationally BBBS has roughly 242,000 children being mentored by an adult. They hope to add 25,000 to the rolls in 2010.
The program matches individuals to children to give the youngsters an adult influence in their lives they may be lacking. A man might be matched, for example, with a young boy whose mother is a single parent, leaving the boy lacking male friendship and guidance.
Vredenburgh had high praise for the staff.
“The case workers who make the matches are tremendously important,” she says. “Our professionals really work hard to make the right match.”
Right matches and follow through are important Vredenburgh noted. While research shows that the relationship usually brings enormous benefits to the child in regards to school achievement the momentum dies quickly if the relationship is severed which it often is when a child transfers from one school to another or moves to a different part of town.
“The kids we work with don’t trust easily. It can take four months or more before a child is ready to open up to an adult.”
She told of an experience with one of her own little sisters who was extremely reluctant to talk about herself and how, once she had gained the girl’s trust, couldn’t wait to tell everything that was going on in her life.
The Tulsa chapter of Big Brothers is constantly looking for new mentors. To volunteer for as little as an hour a week call (918) 744-4400 or visit www.bigbrothers-tulsa.org.