PUBLISHED: 4:08 PM on Wednesday, May 16, 2007
School program volunteer recruitment focuses on finding mentors for the fall

Photo courtesy Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Alaska
  Big Brother Joseph Lanham and Little Brother Gabe get together every week at Gabe's school in Ketchikan. They are matched in the Big Brothers Big Sisters School Program. Interested school mentors around the region should sign up now with BBBS to be ready to be matched with a great kid when school starts in the fall.
Increased numbers of young students seeking a Big Brother or Big Sister as a school friend mean more Southeast Alaska adults are needed when school begins in the fall.

To recruit more Bigs in schools from Ketchikan to Yakutat, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Alaska has launched a radio and outreach campaign to remind adults now is the time to sign up for the 2007-2008 School Program. The goal is to bring in 50 new inquiries from potential school volunteers around the region by June 30.

"That's a big goal, but we have a record number of children signing up for our successful School Program," said Marc Wheeler, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeast Alaska. "We need more adult volunteers so every child that wants or needs a school mentor can have one when they go back to school in the fall," Wheeler said.

School Program volunteers meet with their Littles for one hour a week during the school day at the Little's school. They build life-changing friendships simply by sharing lunch, reading books, playing on the playground, doing art projects, playing board games, or working on schoolwork.

"We want folks to know they can share just one hour a week in a local elementary or middle school and make a big difference in a child's life," Wheeler said.

Last school year, Southeast teachers reported 68 percent of students matched with a School Big for just one school year showed an improved attitude toward school, 80% exhibited more self confidence, and 66 percent improved their academic performance. Among many other positive changes in School Littles, teachers also reported improved classroom participation, a better ability to express feelings, improved relationships with the teacher and classmates, and a better sense of the future.

This year, BBBS plans to serve 332 youth around Southeast Alaska in the School Program. In 2006, 310 students had a school mentor.

A recent survey of current and former Southeast Bigs showed that once people signed on to volunteer, they were surprised at how easy it was to be a Big Brother or Big Sister. "In our School Program, with the support of our staff, easy access to a school near work or home and the sheer fun of hanging out with a great kid, our volunteers say it's easy and rewarding," Wheeler said.

New radio spots encouraging volunteers to "share a little time, make a big difference," as a school mentor can be heard during May in Juneau, Hoonah, Haines and Ketchikan along with announcement of the campaign through other media.

A presentation to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce about local employers who currently partner with BBBS to provide volunteers for the School Program is scheduled for Thursday, May 24, at the weekly Chamber luncheon.

BBBS staff will be making other community presentations and talking to individuals about the immediate need for school mentors in Haines, Skagway, Hoonah, Ketchikan, Yakutat and Sitka as well as Juneau. Residents of all those communities will be encouraged to become a School Big Brother or Big Sister through end-of-year school newsletters, presentations to parent groups, partnerships at their workplaces and with the help of new posters featuring Bigs in their community.