By Samantha Pidde
Herald Staff Writer
Big Brothers Big Sisters is expanding its reach to other local communities.
Less than a year ago, the organization was serving 26 children. Now, Director Mick Welding said they currently have 54 students enrolled as “littles” in the program. During the past few years, the program has focused primarily on mentoring in the city of Clinton. Recently, Welding said areas outside of Clinton have sought mentors through Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“Everybody seems to have rallied around some of the things that we’re doing here and they see the positives,” Welding said.
The organization mentors four students in Fulton, Ill., and have started a “lunch buddy” program. Welding said this occurred after members of the Fulton Kiwanis Club expressed a desire to mentor children in their community.
Big Brothers Big Sisters also offers training for high school students wanting to mentor younger children. The organization will offer training to the Calamus-Wheatland School District. Training information also was given to students at Camanche High School. The school already has a mentor program of its own, but Welding said Superintendent Tom Parker felt they could use formal training.
Despite the school not being a part of the program, Welding made sure the students received the training.
“Yeah, we’d like to have them as Big Brothers Big Sisters, but if we could do anything to help them make their job easier to be able to reach these younger kids, then we’ve accomplished our mission,” Welding said.
Welding felt the program’s biggest growth has been in the Northeast School District where training was offered to juniors and seniors wanting to be mentors. A total of 19 students at Northeast are now a part of the program.
“When a child has a mentor, it helps them. Their self-esteem improves. They take school more seriously. They’re less likely to get into trouble,” Welding said.
Big Brothers Big Sisters’ main goal is to keep students from dropping out of school. Welding said that when a child drops out, it has a negative effect on a community.
“We want then to get their diploma and if a child gets their diploma, we’ve done our job,” Welding said.
Welding enjoys the interaction between the “bigs” and “littles.” For him, it is amazing to see the positive impact the program has. Recently, he had a “little” tell him that he plans to mentor to give back to the program that helped him so much.
“When you hear stories like that, then you definitely see the advantage of someone who its affected them so positively that they want to pass it on,” Welding said.
This weekend, Big Brothers Big Sisters will hold two events. The Breakfast with Santa event will be from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday at the Ashford University Online Center on Millcreek Parkway. Admission is $4 at the door. Children will have a chance to have breakfast, get a picture with Santa and construct a frame for the picture. They also will have a chance to write letters to soldiers oversea.
The Dueling Pianos event will return this year on Saturday night in Rastrelli’s Tuscany Room. A social hour will start at 6 p.m., with the program running from 7 to 10 p.m.
Tickets are $50. People can pick up tickets at the door or by calling 243-4223 and by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.