Sharing the same goal in support of Rhode Island’s youth, local mentoring non-profits Big Brothers of Rhode Island (BBRI) and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ocean State (BBBSOS) announced their merger during a press conference at BBBSOS’s headquarters on July 1.
The two organizations, which have a combined 110 years of experience, currently serve over 600 local youngsters and their families by pairing at-risk children with an adult mentor.
“We’re all here frankly because we had mentors in our lives – parents, coaches, teachers, people who sustained us and inspired us. We have to provide the same effort and service to the next generation of Rhode Islanders and Americans,” said U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, who provided the gathering’s opening remarks.
In BBBSOS’s traditional mentoring program, adult mentors work to establish positive relationships with children ages 7 to 15. The non-profit also provides several variations of its traditional program – such as school-based mentoring – in order to create more focused mentoring relationships.
As the two organizations merge, they will consolidate resources and share a single strategy in order to best serve the state’s youth. Their success in the community is well documented.
“I am proud to say that BBBSOS earned the highest designation of ‘Premier’ after completing the rigorous quality assessment process,” said Jo-Ann Schofield, president and CEO of the RI Mentoring Partnership. “We believe, and research supports, that a quality mentoring program will produce quality mentoring relationships – relationships that last, and relationships that are transformational, not only for the youth, but often for the mentor as well.”
According to BBBSOS’s website, children who are mentored in the group’s program show improvement in self-confidence, expression, decision-making and academic performance. As Schofield alluded to, the program doesn’t just benefit the children.
“My real love is mentoring,” said Joe Manera, board president of BBRI, who became a Big Brother at the age of 60. “Being a mentor is a wonderful thing, to have a role in a child’s life – just to sit with a child, talk with them, be a positive influence … it’s something that gives you a sense of pride, a sense of satisfaction.”
Rachelle Green, board president of BBBSOS, shared Manera’s enthusiasm and spoke about her optimism regarding the organization’s future. She also drew attention to BBBSOS’s waiting list, which currently leaves over 100 children without a mentor.
“We need more mentors,” she said. “I love the fact that we’re combining these resources. I think that’s something that maybe needs to be done more often … we’re consolidating energy, we’re working together, and I’m hoping we’ll be able to generate more mentors so we can serve more children.”
Cranston Mayor Allan Fung was also in attendance and provided the conference’s closing remarks, praising BBBSOS’s efforts as well as recalling his experiences with at-risk youth while working as a prosecutor.
“Prosecuting young adults, I’ve personally seen many families with single parents, or no parents at all, and many of those individuals, male and female, are going through the system and really need the guidance, and are crying out for the guidance,” said Fung.