March 14, 2022

The need for youth mentors has grown in Indianapolis

Mayor talks about mentor experience at BBBSCI. (Jill Sheridan WFYI)

Mayor talks about mentor experience at BBBSCI. (Jill Sheridan WFYI)

The need for mentors has grown over the past two years. Now a local organization is working to find more volunteers to mentor youth in Indianapolis.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana says it has a waitlist of more than 1,300 youth. That’s the highest number ever for the agency and exacerbated by a decrease of volunteers during the pandemic.  The organization launched a new campaign this week with the goal to find 200 new Bigs.

BBBSCI CEO Darcey Palmer-Schultz said more caring adults are needed for youth.

“To let them know that they matter, to show them that they belong, remind them of their power and potential, help them explore opportunities and just be there for them as they grow up,” Palmer-Schultz said.

Three years ago, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett became a mentor.

“We talk a lot about educational expectations and opportunities that might come his way, we talk about healthy lifestyles,” Hogsett said.

Studies show that mentorship programs can improve academic achievement and reduce risky behavior.  A majority of youth on BBBSCI waiting list come from low-income families. More than 70 percent are boys.

The organization partners with local nonprofits that also have mentoring programs. 100 Black Men of Indianapolis CEO and President Andre Givens said his organization uses the BBBSCI facility to conduct youth group mentoring programs.

“It’s vastly important, just mentoring in general,” Givens said. “Our motto is what they see is what they’ll be.”

BBBSCI asks mentors for a year commitment to interact with youth at least two times a month.

The Indiana Youth Institute says one in three young people in Indiana will grow up without ever having a positive mentor.

Contact WFYI city government and policy reporter Jill Sheridan at Follow on Twitter: @JillASheridan.

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