Three decades later, Jennifer Minchoff still has the acceptance letter that her Big Brothers Big Sisters of Carolina Youth Development Center mentor Tracey Lewis received the day she learned she would be getting a mentee, or “Little.”
The notification, dated April 20, 1987, resides in a scrapbook of photos and keepsakes documenting the mentoring relationship between Jennifer and her “Big.”
Jennifer, now a trade broker with the company Bartercard Charleston and mother of three, will never forget the indelible impact the mentor experience had on her life.
An only child, she was 8-years old around the time when she was matched with Tracey. Jennifer’s parents divorced when she was just a toddler, and her dad was not much of a presence in her life.
“I never knew what a dual parent family was like,” recollects Jennifer.
Her situation at home meant that having another positive adult role model to look up to went a long way.
“As a kid, you think ‘my mom doesn’t know anything.’ Having a person between my mom and me’s age helped a lot,” reflects Jennifer.
“Just having someone to talk to.”
Activities the pair enjoyed included bowling, mini golf, movies, catching a magic show, or going to the circus or the Coastal Carolina Fair.
But nothing trumped arts and crafts time.
“I love crafts. That’s the one thing we did a lot together,” recounts Jennifer.
A strong mentor does more than just have fun with their mentee, though. They encourage them and motivate them to do well in school and succeed in life.
Jennifer recalls Tracey helping her with one of her school projects in which they made a mountain out of grits. “It’s the South,” she quips.
Their Big Sister-Little Sister mentoring match officially ended in 1989 when Jennifer left South Carolina to attend school in Pennsylvania (she still returned to Charleston during the summers), but the two’s correspondence never stopped, even lasting throughout high school.
In fact, Jennifer still remains in touch with Tracey today. As recently as last year they met up for a glass of wine and to catch up.
Jennifer and Tracey’s story is just one powerful example of the lasting influence a caring adult mentor can have on the life of a child facing adversity.
Our Bowl for Kids’ Sake personal and team fundraising pages are now up and running on Greater Giving! If you are interested in creating a page visit the link bit.ly/bbbsbfks. Then come out and bowl with us on Saturday, March 21 at the Charleston Rifle Club! There will be three, 2-hour bowling shifts throughout the day-one beginning at 10:00 a.m., another starting at 12:30 p.m. and the last one commencing at 3 p.m. Just follow these instructions to start your own fundraising page:
- Click “Personal Fundraiser Signup”
- Then select “Click Here to Join.”
- Log in with your existing Join Me account or create a new account.
- If you are creating a new account, Greater Giving will send you a confirmation email.
- Once you click on the confirmation email, you log in to your account and you have the choice of creating a personal fundraising page or a team fundraising page.
- You have the option to personalize your fundraising page, promote it on Social Media and email the link to friends and family! Thanks in advance for your support of youth mentoring programs in our community!
Start Something today!
Mia and Diana’s Story
Mia spent months asking her mom when she would finally be able to meet her big sister. After 7 months of waiting and asking, Mia got her chance to meet her big, Diana. They have now been matched for 3 months and enjoy spending time together. Mia and Diana are part of our School-Based Program, so they spend an hour a week together in Mia’s school. When hanging out, they enjoy playing board games, video games and talking. Diana also helps Mia out when she is struggling with school work. Diana recently had the privilege to attend a breakfast honoring Mia as student of the month.
One of Diana’s favorite moments with Mia was during this past Christmas season. Diana and Mia were working on coming up with a Christmas wish list. Diana had noticed that Mia’s backpack was worn and torn and asked if she would want to include a backpack on her list. Mia said no because she loved that her backpack was personalized with her name on it. At that moment, Diana knew exactly what she was going to give Mia for Christmas; a new pack with her name on it. When Mia received her gift she was absolutely thrilled!
Diana’s favorite part of being a big to Mia is knowing that she is making a positive influence on her life. Mia’s mother has expressed how much Mia enjoys their relationship and how much it means to the family. Mia is a big sister to two brothers and her mother has always felt it was a good idea that Mia have a big sister of her own.
One year ago Sandra was able to finally meet her Little, Ki, who at the time was 6. Throughout this past year they have been able to form a great relationship through experiencing life together. They have had the opportunity to attend baseball games, visit the aquarium, go to the beach, go boating, and much more. Sandra has gotten to know Ki’s family by involving Ki’s cousin and also by spending time with her grandparents. They like to cook and bake cookies together while also enjoying the occasional McDonalds lunch and playground time. Sandra says Ki is always extremely friendly with other children and is always making new friends. Ki is incredibly smart and never misses a single day of school!
This year Sandra and Ki were able to spend time together over Christmas. A proud moment for Sandra was when Ki felt compelled and excited to donate money to a Salvation Army bell ringer volunteer. Sandra and her husband were also able to take Ki, her cousin, and grandparents to Red’s Ice House for a fun Christmas dinner. She surprised the two kids with small gifts that kept them occupied throughout dinner.
One of the best experiences Sandra has had with Ki is the time she took her out on her boat along with her husband and golden retriever, Addie. Ki was so excited to be able to go out on the water and wasn’t scared one bit. Sandra was so proud that Ki was brave enough to jump into the water with her life jacket on. Ki enjoyed playing and receiving many kisses from Addie the golden retriever.
Sandra has really enjoyed being a Big and says one of the best parts is being able to see this sweet and spunky girl grow up. She has enjoyed doing things together that maybe neither of them would have been able to do if they weren’t matched. She enjoys being able to be a kid again when she is with Ki while also seeing the huge difference she is making in Ki’s life.
January marks the 14th annual National Mentoring Month, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Carolina Youth Development Center is participating in this campaign aimed at expanding quality mentoring opportunities to connect more of our community’s young people with caring adult role models. Connecting young people to mentors is a strategy that begins with a caring adult who takes interest in a child’s life and future, and who makes a commitment to be someone who matters to a young person on a regular basis. We know that youth participating in a quality mentoring program are more likely to attend and engage in school, stay out of trouble, finish high school and continue on to college. Mentoring works to help young people live up to their potential.
Throughout January, we will be sharing stories, photographs, statistics and infographics on our Facebook and Twitter pages that demonstrate the lasting positive impact that mentoring can have on youth facing adversity. We will be spotlighting some of our Big-Little matches here at BBBS of CYDC and giving them the opportunity to discuss in their own words how their mentoring relationship has improved their lives for the better.
However, despite the myriad proven benefits of mentoring there is still a gap between the number of mentors and the number of young people in the Tri-County area who need them. Today in the community there are more than a hundred kids who could benefit from having a mentor. There is especially a need for male mentors to serve as role models for young boys.
As we focus on engaging more community members in volunteering as mentors, we will share a simple message: Be Someone Who Matters to Someone Who Matters. Mentoring relationships are basic human connections that let a young person know that they matter, and mentors frequently report back that their relationships make them feel like someone who matters in another person’s life. To learn more about the role mentoring plays in positively impacting youth’s lives and to find volunteer opportunities in our area, visit becomeabig.org/volunteer.
When eight year-old Daijon got out of school on Monday, Nov. 17 he was in for the birthday surprise of a lifetime. Little did he know that his Big Brothers Big Sisters of CYDC Big Brother Bradley Adams would be waiting for him in a sleek black Maserati, where he would then escort Daijon to the Baker Motor Company dealerships. When they arrived, Daijon was given a grand tour of the Rolls Royce’s, Land Rovers and Jaguars, oh my! Words fail to adequately express the joy on his face, but we tried our best to capture it in pictures.
The incredible experience was all made possible thanks to the kind folks at Baker Motor Company who coordinated with Bradley to arrange the ride and the tour. This thoughtful gesture from Bradley will be a day Daijon never forgets. It serves as another reminder of the positive impact caring adult mentors can have on youth facing adversity! Click here to read the great feature article West Of Magazine wrote about the strong bond between this Big and his Little.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Carolina Youth Development Center will hold its Bowl for Kids’ Sake 2015 at the Charleston Rifle Club in downtown Charleston on Saturday, March 21, 2015. We are so excited to partner with Charleston Rifle Club for the first time, and we hope this just marks the beginning of a long, fruitful relationship of working together to help raise funds for Tri-County children facing serious adversity.
Money raised from this annual bowling fundraiser goes to support our community and school-based mentoring programs that match at-risk children from single-parent families with caring adult role models who can make a lasting positive impact in youth’s lives. Stay tuned to our blog for more details, as we might have some fun new additions to Bowl for Kids’ Sake to announce in the coming month or two.
In the meantime, click here if you are interested in learning more about bowling lane sponsorships, forming teams, or sponsoring a bowler. Bowl for Kids’ Sake 2015 is all about having a good time while helping kids continue on a positive path!
After a successful rookie season with the Detroit Pistons, former Porter Gaud School star Khris Middleton will return to Charleston to host the first Khris Middleton Skills Academy basketball camp, the proceeds of which will benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Carolina Youth Development Center. The three-day camp will be held at Porter Gaud School Friday, June 21 through Sunday, June 23 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. for youth ages 9 – 14. The camp will focus on basketball fundamentals such as ball handling, passing, teamwork, and shooting. Campers will receive lunch, beverages, and prizes from corporate sponsors such as Nike and the Detroit Pistons.
The Khris Middleton Skills Academy will serve as an annual basketball camp in Charleston to provide children with a fun camp experience while also giving back to the community. The camp will include skill development, contests, prizes/giveaways, and special guests. John Pearson, Porter Gaud’s head boys varsity basketball coach, will be the camp director.
The Academy’s partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Carolina Youth Development Center, located in North Charleston, was a natural choice. “I wanted to choose an organization that gives children in the community the same guidance, exposure, and opportunities I had as a child,” Middleton said. “Big Brothers Big Sisters of Carolina Youth Development Center is a great resource for kids that allows them to succeed and thrive through mentorship and educational programs. It’s great that I can combine sports with these already existing programs. I’m looking forward to a wonderful partnership with them.”
Middleton gave several camp scholarships to the organization and is set to tour the campus in the days leading up to the camp. For more information on the Khris Middleton Skills Academy and to register your child, please visit www.khrismiddleton.net.
Contact: Brittney Middleton
Manager, Midd-Level Sports, LLC
Chances are, you’re familiar with Bowl for Kids’ Sake, Big Brothers Big Sisters’ signature event. As our largest community fundraiser, Bowl for Kids’ Sake helps Big Brothers Big Sisters of CYDC and other Big Brothers Big Sisters’ offices to raise the vital funds needed to create life-changing match relationships.
Here in the Lowcountry, Bowl for Kids’ Sake has been a part of the community for over a decade. By participating in Bowl For Kids’ Sake, the community plays an important role in the success of Big Brothers Big Sisters. This support will help BBBS serve more children — children forever changed by their experience.
This year, the Bowl for Kids’ Sake campaign includes three events — two traditional daytime bowling events and an evening happy hour event. In addition to those scheduled events, supporters can also opt to plan and hold their own Wii bowling parties in support of the campaign. For more information on each event, including more details on how you can become involved as a sponsor or player, click here.
More than 350 people are expected to participate in this year’s campaign events.
“Our goal is to get more people involved to help raise $45,000 during this year’s campaign. All monies raised by during Bowl for Kids’ Sake support tri-county children and will help us to match a Big with 50 young boys and girls,” stated Mandy Treadway Scherer, Program Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of CYDC.
In 2012, nation wide, Bowl for Kids’ Sake was the largest athletic fundraiser of any youth-serving organization. With your help, we can make sure our staff has the resources necessary to screen, recruit and train more volunteers.
To join the fun and become a bowler, a team captain, a sponsor, or all three, call Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Carolina Youth Development Center at (843) 266-5232 or visit BecomeABig.org.
About a year after being paired with mentors, youth evaluated in a recent study —many of whom had multiple risk factors for delinquency, school failure, teen pregnancy and mental health problems — had fewer symptoms of depression.
The young people were part of the first large-scale evaluation to assess how mentoring affects “higher-risk” youth. Noted mentoring researchers, Carla Herrera, David DuBois and Jean Grossman studied more than 1,300 youth enrolled in seven Washington State mentoring programs, including five Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies.
Washington State Mentors served as the intermediary for the study.
Youth with mentors, compared to those without mentors who faced similar challenges, improved in their social competence, academic attitudes and grades. The strongest findings were related to decreases in symptoms of depression—an especially noteworthy outcome given that nearly one in four youth in the study reported high levels of depressive symptoms before being matched with mentors.
“Depression has been linked to a host of short- and long-term problems for young people, including suicidal behavior, academic and social difficulties, and increased risk for substance abuse and teen pregnancy,” the researchers reported. “The study’s findings offer robust evidence that participation in volunteer-centered, one-to-one, community-based mentoring programs can ameliorate and/or prevent the emergence of depressive symptoms,” they added.
“When young people face multiple life challenges, their families and communities suffer as well,” said Big Brothers Big Sisters of America President and CEO Charles Pierson. “While a number of studies have found that one-to-one mentoring helps ‘at-risk’ children, this new research provides important insights about the impact of our work on youth who face a range of issues, including those who face higher levels and severity of risk factors.”
The study revealed the importance of careful screening for mental health concerns at intake, in combination with referral mechanisms for those who are in need of additional support. Of note, the researchers found that while mentoring programs are successful at reaching youth with lower-risk profiles, they are also able to reach those who meet the “higher-risk” threshold, without significant efforts beyond their normal recruitment strategies.
The study found mentors who received early-match training and consistent phone support met more frequently and had longer-lasting relationships with their mentees. Youth whose mentors received in-person group training also reported higher-quality relationships. The researchers noted that offering tailored training and support to mentors, mentees and families based on the specific risks youth face has the potential to produce even stronger benefits.
For more information on how you can become involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of CYDC as a Big, or if you’re interested in getting a mentor for your child, call the Big Brothers Big Sisters office at (843) 266-5232.