Too often mainstream news only focuses on incidents of youth violence and schools failing to meet educational standards. This isn’t one of those stories. With encouragement and praise from their ‘Bigs,’ 32 young men and women in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee program graduated high school in May of 2016.
These children all faced significant challenges during their formative school years. Single parent households, parents incarcerated, economic disadvantages, and family situations that are often are in a constant state of uncertainty. Celebrating the milestone of graduating from high school is significant for any young person, but for these children, it is especially important.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee recently held a Graduation Party for the group with dinner, special certificates and speeches. Mentors and mentees alike spoke about how much their participation in the program shaped their life. “My Little Sister had to deal with a lot in the past few years, and she handled it all with such grace—more grace than most adults,” shared one. “My Little Brother was shy, but once we had been friends a few weeks, he suddenly became very outgoing,” shared another.
Many of the 32 Littles at the event expressed appreciation, saying they truly did not know where they would be in their lives without their Bigs. Volunteer Bigs and Littles alike shared that the official supervised mentorship ends with graduation, but they plan to stay in touch for years to come.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee matches at-risk youth with caring adults for a professionally supported, one-to-one mentoring relationship. The agency asks for a one-year commitment from the volunteers, however most matches last much longer. The average match length of this group was 3 to 4 years. One pair had been matched for 11 years.
“This program creates strong, meaningful, lasting relationships. Graduation is just the first of many milestones the pairs will celebrate together,” said Carlyle Carroll, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee.
“We are proud to have played a part in their maturing into adults and making responsible decisions about their future. Many will be attending college or trade schools in the fall or even serving their country in the armed forces.”
Children with a positive adult role model in their lives are proven to do better in school, have an increase in self-confidence and avoid risk behaviors like drugs and violence. In turn, they positively impact those around them and their community.