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Mentoring: Be that someone special for a local child

By NancyDodge-Diaz
   Program Cordinator
   Each one of us remembers someone special -- a neighbor, teacher, relative or friend -- who broadened our horizons and brought a little magic into our lives.
   Maybe it was the person who taught you to throw straight, gave you an attaboy or attagirl or just listened. It may have been someone who helped you make a good decision, instead of a bad one.
   So what better way to start a new year than to return the favor by mentoring a young person? January is National Mentoring Month, as well as the month to make New Year's resolutions.
   This year, if you become a mentor, it may be the one resolution you will want to keep. Just a few hours a couple of times a month can make a big difference in a child's life, and be a rewarding experience.
   Hilario Diaz has been mentoring Brett, now 14, since March of 2004, and then started mentoring Brett's younger brother who is 7, in October of 2006.
   Hilario, who is employed at Warm Spring Forest Products and is a volunteer captain with Jefferson County Fire District in Culver, shared that it isn't hard to find the time to mentor.
   He takes the boys to eat out, watches videos and plays video games, and has taken them fishing when he can. He has watched Brett play football and basketball, and encourages Dakota's desire to be a "firefighter paramedic police officer" when he grows up.
   Not sure you're mentor material? According to research conducted by our organization, and to men and women who inquire about mentoring opportunities, there are some commonly held misperceptions.
   One is that a mentor has to have a big job or standing in the community. The fact is kids don't care about titles, only the caring and commitment.
   There is also the misperception that it takes too much time to be a mentor. Our volunteers spend a few hours a couple of times a month with their Littles. It's the quality of the time spent, not the quantity.
   Some folks tell us they worry that they will run out of ideas for things to do with a Little Brother or Little Sister. The fact is, we organize all kinds of indoor and outdoor group events for Bigs and Littles. We also provide ideas on low-cost or free activities.
   One Big told us, "Spending time with my Little Brother is easy. Stuff I'd do by myself is more fun with him." Another tells us he makes time for community service, like volunteering at a food bank, among the activities he has with his Little Brother.
   "It's so important for his growth, in terms of building his self-esteem, to know that he can change the world, even if it's just a small thing. It's the small things that make a difference," he said.
   Mentoring makes a big difference. Research shows that one-to-one, professionally supported mentoring has a direct, measurable and lasting impact.
   Children in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program are more likely to graduate from high school and less likely to be involved in violence.
   Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Oregon is actively recruiting mentors. The need for both male and female mentors in Jefferson County is urgent.
   Too few young people have a caring adult mentor to provide encouragement and support. Mentoring programs can provide the link to this support, but programs like ours need volunteers to close the gap.
   Resolve to mentor a child, and have a great and rewarding new year.
   For information on the program, contact Nancy Dodge-Diaz, Jefferson County coordinator, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Oregon, 475-2292, ext. 351.