Mentoring program provides adult mentor for military children Published Aug. 24, 2012 By Jenny Gordon Robins Public Affairs ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- The mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters is to help every child reach his or her potential through one-on-one relationships with mentors. This is done through community and school-based programs throughout the country. One of the organization's newest initiatives is a military mentoring program which seeks to identify children with a military connection - whether active duty, Reserve or National Guard - and pair them with an adult mentor. The program will focus on children between the ages of nine through 15 and have one or both parents in the military. "We are actively looking for military children to participate in this program in Houston County," said Patti Conley, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Heart of Georgia director of program services. "I definitely think there's a need for this. We want to get the word out to parents that this is available to their child," added Lesley Darley, Robins' School Liaison. Although BBBS seeks to nurture children who may be struggling at school or home, and who need extra attention with academic or social issues, the military mentoring program welcomes children who are even maintaining straight 'A's and adjusting well in school. Every child can participate. This newest program of BBBS realizes the unique challenges experienced by military kids when faced with parent deployments, separations, frequent relocations, and more. The base Youth Center will serve as a community site where mentors and children can meet after school hours. Another BBBS program, REACH, or Raising Education Achievement for Children in Houston County, has enjoyed success from mentors at Robins since 1997. In what began with one school and a handful of volunteers from the contracting division, has turned into a partnership with six schools that enjoy mentors actively visiting students. They include Linwood, Lindsey, Pearl Stephens, Parkwood and Westside elementary schools, and Huntington Middle School in Warner Robins. REACH is a school-based program where volunteers are matched with children from one of these schools, they meet at the schools once a week for 45 minutes. Mentors can spend time talking with a child, reading, helping him or her with academics, and simply getting to know one another. Volunteers are asked to make a one-year commitment to the program. Conley, who has worked with BBBS for 16 years, has seen children blossom when paired with a caring mentor. "It's amazing," she said. "I have teachers who stop me in the hallway and tell me the difference it has made with a child in a matter of weeks." Surveys from children, mentors, teachers and parents show that participation in the program has increased students' self-confidence, trust in teachers and adults, and resulted in higher grades and a more positive attitude at school. "We find that a lot more of the children stay in school longer, and that teenage pregnancy is delayed, for example. There are just a lot of good outcomes," she said. There is now excused absence for tutorial education and mentoring for Robins workers. Employees can be granted 45 minutes of excused absence to participate in mentoring, to be used in conjunction with their lunch period. For questions about enrolling your child in the military mentoring program or to become a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters, contact Darley at 327-7692 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.