Lake Area Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) is asking if you have what it takes to mentor a lake area child who just needs a little direction and an extra push.

Lake Area Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) is asking if you have what it takes to mentor a lake area child who just needs a little direction and an extra push. Currently in need of five or more mentors to take the initiative to volunteer a mere 45 minutes per week with a local child- the program is open to accepting more mentors and children alike.

Connecting children with mentors is not something Lake Area Big Brothers Big Sister (BBBS) program coordinator Alison Martin thought she would be doing when she completed her bachelor's degree in elementary education. In fact, the 2003 Camdenton high school graduate even went on to earn her master's degree in family and human development, before she realized that being a school teacher was not yet meant to be her path.

It would take her husband, Scottie Martin, to point out that BBBS needed a new program coordinator three years ago. It was a roll of which he thought she would be perfect for. Scottie, a big brother to a local child for over 8 years, was highly familiar with the program.

"My husband has stayed in touch with his little brother throughout some very formative years and I imagine he will stay in touch with him for years to come, it has been great to see," Alison said.

Pointing out that there are many situations and connections that end up being short term to long term, it all depends on the mentor.

Adult mentors are carefully screened and matched by a list of criteria with a child aged 6-14. Then, there are two programs the mentor can volunteer for.

The one-on-one mentoring program began in order to assist children facing adversity from single parent homes or those raised by grandparents to be matched with a caring adult mentor that will change their lives for the better- forever.

"I've been amazed at the transformations some of these children have gone through and it's just because someone took time out to become a friend and give them some extra guidance," Alison said.

The one-on-one mentors are allowed to go to the children's homes or pick them up from their homes to take them out into the community.

"Most mentors in this program will take kids to the park, to a movie, to run errands or just hang out and talk for an hour or so one day a week," Alison said.

The second program which has become popular is the school program at School of the Osage. Mentors pick one day Monday-Thursday and show up from 2:15-3:00 p.m. at the school to spend 45 minutes with their little brother or sister.

"A lot of mentors in the school program will either choose to color, talk, listen, shoot hoops, read or whatever they can come up with," Alison said.

According to statistics, the programs also benefits the community in the long run. Mentored children in the Lake Area BBBS program are 46 percent less likely to start using drugs and 27 percent less likely to consume alcohol. Mentored children are 52 percent less likely than their peers to skip a day of school and 30% less likely to engage in violent behavior.

"Statistics also show us that children in the programs are more likely to be trusting of their parents or guardians, they perform better in school and are less likely to lie to their parents," Alison said.

Adults entering the program are given background checks and must attend a volunteer training session which teaches them the rules, child safety, regulations, roles and expectations for the match relationship.

"The adults don't have to spend any money, they can just be a friend, listen, be positive and have fun together," Alison said.

Currently there are 22 students matched with mentors in the local BBBS program.

"In everyone's life, there has been an adult, other than our parents who broadened our horizons and brought a little magic into our lives, so becoming a big brother or a big sister can allow you to do the same for a child," Alison said, adding that most times both lives are forever changed by the experience.

BBBS is hoping to spread the word and gain more mentors before the start of the school year. If you or someone you know would be a good fit (either as a mentor or a child) for the one-on-one mentoring program, or the school program, please contact Alison Martin at (573) 348-5507 or email alison.martin@lakebbbs.org. Additional information can be found at www.lakebbbs.org.