Making a difference one child at a time

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Daniel Liddicoet
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
The true spirit of volunteerism is often clouded by the pursuit of accolades and self-promotion. When people are detached from their sense of purpose, it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve fulfillment through the act of giving. Mentoring a child however, offers an impact that can be witnessed first-hand as progression occurs.
Mentors involved with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program of Otero County are afforded the unique opportunity to produce significant change in another human being's life for a small sacrifice of personal time.

As Meron Wilson, fund development and outreach coordinator for BBBS describes, "We invest in many things that never return any dividends, but every hour that we invest in our children, we can count on getting a long term return."

One of the chief benefits for the children involved in BBBS stems from the effort that mentors provide within the schools helping to nurture their academic development.

"Over the years our real focus has grown into school-based mentoring," said Wilson, "which has given us very good results. In many cases, the children just need the kind of adult leadership in their lives that can focus and channel their talents so that they can grow up to really realize their potential as human beings."

Often times, once children are provided with the proper structure, their ability to grow and flourish increases exponentially.

"Research shows that if children are performing at or above their grade levels by the time they reach 3rd grade, they are on their way to academic success," said Wilson. "Studies have also shown that about 50 percent of kids involved in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program stopped missing school. It was found that about one-third of the kids that normally would have been involved with drugs and alcohol never even started to engage with any of that."

The impact of this involvement can even be measured on the local level within the surrounding area of Holloman AFB.

"Looking at kids locally in Yucca Elementary School," said Wilson, "I've found that kids who received mentorship gained about one to one and a half years in their reading ability."

Currently there are 156 active matches in the community, and of that 36 are team Holloman members.

"The community at Holloman Air Force Base has really supported what we're trying to do," said Ashley Shedd, program specialist for BBBS.

"The teachers and faculty at the local schools are extremely supportive of our matches especially after seeing the effect it can have on their students."

The enthusiasm shown by the teachers is also echoed by the children as they are motivated to excel with the help of their mentors.

"I don't know very many kids that would typically be excited to get pulled out of class and work on school work, but every single one of our kids loves the opportunity to see their bigs and get a chance to work with them one on one," said Shedd. "That level of attention is so much different for them than being in a class with 30 other kids. They get someone who is solely focused on them and their level of advancement."

Those that volunteer with BBBS ultimately become much more than just mentors in the lives of the children they work with.

"The young men and women at Holloman who are involved in these programs become heroes to these kids," said Wilson. "They really motivate these kids to want to become the best that they can grow into."

Even in light of the incredible difference mentors are able to make in the community, the real joy of volunteering with BBBS stems from the personal growth felt by the individual.

"The time that you spend with the child also helps develop who you are as a person," said Wilson.

"When I take the time to invest in someone else's life, then my whole life changes. I realize that I'm assuming a terrific responsibility for that persons' life, and it motivates me to be the best example I can be. It not only changes the child, but it changes who I am, because it is such a great blessing to be able to influence another human life. I don't think there's anything better than that."