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Marshall Mentors plan festival to mentor children

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Marshall Mentors is planning a spring carnival for April with games, a dunk tank, food and more. The student organization partners with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Tri-State to give Marshall students the opportunity to perform community service by mentoring a child.

Other upcoming plans for the semester include a career day and a safety day with invited police officers, firefighters and a recovering addict from a local drug rehabilitation center.

Big Brothers Big Sisters helped to create the organization last spring semester as a way to recruit new volunteers for its program. Volunteers, or “bigs,” mentor children who are called their “littles.” They are required to spend six to eight hours a month with their little doing a variety of activities, which can include visiting local parks, getting food or seeing movies.

Jordan Leishear, graduate student at Marshall, has been involved with Marshall Mentors for a little over a year. She said the time commitment tends to scare people away even though it is a rewarding experience.

“I think it’s definitely something that it really worth the time and energy,” Leishear, president of the organization, said. “It really isn’t as big of a commitment as a lot of people think it is. The requirement is about eight hours a month, which you can break up. Seeing your little is a lot easier than you would think.

“I definitely encourage people that they have the time to do it, and to be able to give back to your community that way, there’s no price tag on that, there’s nothing that can really beat that. Every hesitation you have, it’s just really nothing in comparison to what you can do for the kids.”

Sarah Brewster, community-based enrollment and match support specialist for Big Brother Big Sisters of the Tri-State, said there are three different options for volunteers to consider.

“We’ve got a few different programs; we’ve got a community-based program, a school-based program and a school-based plus program,” Brewster said. “The community program, it’s kind of what most people think about when they think of Big Brothers Big Sisters, and that’s where volunteers take the little out in the community twice a month.

“School-based is where the volunteer goes to see the child in a school setting one hour a week. We have a school-based plus program, and that’s like a mixture. That’s where a volunteer can see the child in a school setting as well as a community setting.”

Volunteers must be at least 18 to be in the school-based program or 19 to do the community-based program. After applications are filled out, there is an interview process, references and background checks, Brewster said. The next step is getting matched with a little.

“We base matching on personality, interests; we ask the volunteer for their preferences, if they want to be matched with an older or younger child,” Brewster said. “We want to listen to your preferences and what you’re comfortable with. We don’t want to put you in a situation where you’d be uncomfortable. Sometimes we’ll have a big come in who has a very similar history to a little on a wait list. We send our biographies to the volunteers of a potential little to see if they think that’ll be a good fit, because we want to get your feedback too.”

Marshall Mentors meets twice a month in the Shawkey Dining Room, and Brewster said meetings are sometimes open to the littles and other bigs who do not attend Marshall.

“It’s really great when someone from the outside that has not been involved with our organization comes to a meeting where the kids are there too, because they can see the interaction between the big and the little which is really neat,” Brewster said.

To become a member, those interested can fill out an application and pay a $15 due which goes toward activities the organization does.

“My hope is that the organization can become the biggest one at Marshall,” Brewster said. “Our ultimate hope is to change the lives of kids in the Tri-State area, and our agency, Big Brothers Big Sisters, believes that mentoring makes a difference and that one-on-one relationships can really change the life of a kid for the better, forever.”

Amanda Larch can be contacted at [email protected]

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