Mentors have impact on youngsters’ lives

Daily Journal

Dozens of young people throughout Johnson County have seen the value of mentorship, but the need for those mentors is outpacing the adults who volunteer.

School systems across the county have programs in which adults spend an hour a week helping struggling students with lessons. Others simply have those adults spend one lunch period each week just talking and listening. These programs can always find room for more volunteers.

However, the programs end with the school year, and the need for positive mentors and role models knows no season. The Big Brothers Big Sisters program seeks to meet this need. The organization matches volunteers in the community with children who need another positive role model in their lives.

But about 30 children are on the waiting list for Big Brothers Big Sisters in the county alone, and more sign up each week.

“Someone has already asked for these kids to be enrolled in the program, but we don’t yet have enough mentors to match them up and get them going,” said Darcey Palmer-Shultz, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana. “We know from research that all kids benefit from having multiple positive adult role models in their lives. We really believe that all kids have potential, and all kids need help to develop that.”

The children and teens who are waiting for a mentor come from difficult home situations. In Johnson County, 69 percent of them live in a single-parent home. In 37 percent of the cases, at least one parent is incarcerated. Nearly all — 97 percent — have families that qualify for school lunch assistance.

“They have challenges. These are great kids with lots of potential, but they might not have everything working in their favor,” Palmer-Schultz said. “A mentor can help them develop a positive vision for the future.”

According to research by Big Brothers Big Sisters, mentoring helps children achieve greater success academically, overcome behavioral issues and develop the confidence and vision that will provide a better future, Palmer-Schultz said. After 18 months in the program, children are 46 percent less likely to use illegal drugs, 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol and 52 percent less likely to skip school.

Mentors typically see their little brother or sister twice each month, though they can get together more or less if they want to. Potential mentors need to be at least 19 years old, and the organization is in need of both men and women to volunteer.

People fill out an application, are interviewed and have a background check performed before they can become mentors. Training is provided on how to relate to their little brother or sister, and staff members from Big Brothers Big Sisters provides regular guidance throughout the program.

Mentors need to commit for at least one year. Research has shown that a yearlong relationship will get the best results for the child.

“Mentoring is a relationship-based program, so for that relationship to really take root and blossom in a productive way, length of time is important,” Palmer-Schultz said.

Adults from any background can have a major impact on the life of a young person just by volunteering for a few hours a month. It’s a precious investment in the future of the community and the young member of that community.


For more information about being a Big Brother or Big Sister, contact Jarod Wilson at or 472-3730.

At issue

Many young people in Johnson County would benefit from a relationship with an adult mentor.

Our point

By volunteering just a few hours a month, an individual can make a difference in the life of a young person.