In-school mentoring through Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) in Williams Lake has expanded into the South Cariboo thanks to a partnership between the BBBS office on Oliver Street and the Cariboo Family Enrichment Centre in 100 Mile House – something that BBBS Executive Director Melissa Newberry describes as a good fit.
“This expansion was a result of a gap identified through the Cariboo Family Enrichment Centre in 100 Mile House. There seemed to be a need for youth mentoring, and although they could offer many other services, this was one that was missing,” Newberry said.
“BBBS is a preventative program, and with a memorandum of understanding with School District #27, it was a good fit for us to train mentors and deliver it there out of their fabulous youth centre.”
The two women with their feet on the ground in this new partnership are Natasha Pilkington in Williams Lake and Kira Mitchell in the South Cariboo.
They both come to the table with experience working with in-school mentoring through BBBS and have each seen the benefits that this program brings to young kids, to their teen mentors, their families and their communities.
Working in the BBBS satellite office in the South Cariboo, Kira Mitchell is the in-school mentoring coordinator. She goes into schools collecting referrals for mentees, does the matches, provides orientation and monitors the matches.
“It all came together wonderfully for me,” Mitchell said. “I’m a child and youth worker, originally from Ontario. Last year my fiancée and I visited here and I loved it.
“I contacted the Cariboo Family Enrichment Centre, and they had great opportunities. The executive director had already been talking to Melissa Newberry about a BBBS partnership and I was asked to be the coordinator,” she continued.
“I really enjoy living in the Cariboo — the scenery, the sunsets, small town life where people are very friendly. Everyone at the centre is so excited about this program coming to the South Cariboo — it’s been a very warm welcome.”
She comes to the South Cariboo BBBS program with experience running a Go Girls group in Ontario, and is also very familiar with BBBS.
“Cariboo Family Enrichment is such a great organization and I was so excited to get this job,” she added.
Both women have seen first hand the benefits from the BBBS programs. “I love making a difference in people’s lives and spending time with children.,” Pilkington said. “As an in-school mentor, I was paired with a Grade 4 boy. This is my third year with him, and it has been absolutely wonderful to be able to watch him grow. Mentoring gives these kids a true sense of confidence. You get to see them open up, improve their communication and smile when they see you at the door. They like that this is something just for them.
“It’s so rewarding when we do our checks throughout the year, and hear a Little say that the Big is part of their family.
“You know they’ve really bonded and the relationship is growing — they’ve become a role model and a friend. There are such great long-term benefits for a Little. Their confidence increases, and they feel safe, secure and accepted.”
Mitchell agrees. “There are such huge benefits to in-school mentoring, for both the younger kids and the teen mentors. It gives both a chance to talk about some of the issues they face, in an environment where they feel safe.
“I feel that this was a real need in our community and I look forward to seeing youth have positive activities in their lives to motivate them to continue to succeed,” she stated.
“With in-school mentoring the high school students get a chance to be leaders and take on extra responsibilities; it’s an opportunity for them to feel good about themselves — watching a child succeed and improve is invaluable. They’ll remember this forever.”
In the new year Pilkington will also run groups in partnership with Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake, including a two-week Go Girls program for girls in Grades 7 and 8, and a ‘Game On’ program for boys. Mentors will include TRU students doing a practicum; these programs will focus on things like healthy eating, healthy relationships and staying active.
For more information about programs run through Big Brothers Big Sisters, including how you can get involved, phone or visit their website.