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Tue, Oct. 15

BBBS needs 31 'Bigs' to get $71,000 grant

Trib Photo/Sue Tone<br>Kathleen Murphy, executive director of Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters, right, fastens a necklace with the YBBBS logo around the neck of Cynthia Schleicher, senior match advisor for the past six years, who also has been a Big Sister for 29 years. YBBBS honored its school mentors and community Bigs on March 24.

Trib Photo/Sue Tone<br>Kathleen Murphy, executive director of Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters, right, fastens a necklace with the YBBBS logo around the neck of Cynthia Schleicher, senior match advisor for the past six years, who also has been a Big Sister for 29 years. YBBBS honored its school mentors and community Bigs on March 24.

Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters could receive a $71,000 research grant from Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention - provided it sets up 31 more matches by the end of July.

"Thirty-four kids are matched so far and 31 more are needed," said Juliana Goswick, fund development director. "Interestingly, we currently have many more girls than boys on our waiting list, so we are actively recruiting for Big Sisters to mentor girls ages 11 to 15."

Having so many girls waiting to be matched with a Big Sister is rare, Goswick added. One reason is because the organization has been actively recruiting both mentors and the young girls needing assistance.

"In general, I think people are just attracted to younger children," Goswick said.

Some Bigs have a perception that preteens and teens are more challenging than younger kids, said Lynn Baxter, YBBBS program direction. It's true that a longer sustaining match can occur when a child is younger, she added.

"But really, the need for a mentor doesn't present itself sometimes until the child gets older. A lot of children are referred in that age group," Baxter said. "We are hard pressed sometimes to find Bigs willing to take on that age group."

Currently, there are 30 girls ages 11-15 in Prescott Valley waiting to be matched. Bigs can become a school-based mentor, spending one hour per week at school with their Little, or community-based, which requires several hours a couple of times a month. In addition, many school-based matches extend into occasional activities outside of school (school-based/plus match).

"We provide close training. We guide and support our matches," Baxter said. "We make sure that as any issues or questions arise, we are right there."

The organization also has the support of community businesses, many which offer free admission for Littles, Bigs or both. YBBBS also plans several free events during the year for Bigs and Littles.

The longest matches tend to start as school-based matches, developing a relationship in a structured setting, Baxter said. Then they begin to explore elsewhere with outside activities.

Thanks to another grant - $20,000 from United Way ­- YBBBS has partnered with middle schools in the Humboldt Unified School District and with Gear Up! This program began last year with HUSD seventh-graders and will follow the same students through to graduation with support, encouragement and scholarship offers to college.

In order to comply with the OJJDP grant, matches must be either community-based or school-based/plus match. The United Way grant includes school-based mentor matches.

Baxter said the juvenile justice research program provides training for Bigs on motivational interviewing, service learning groups, social skills development, and child development in general. The "enhanced" group will get this extra training and the control will get the usual professional support from the BBBS agency.

"The hypothesis is if the Bigs get extra training, does that, in fact, impact the length and strength of the match?" she said.

Matches under the auspices of one grant cannot be the same matches for the other. Both grants work with children ages 11-15; the United Way grant's deadline to find matches is Sept. 30.

"We ask for a 12-to-18 month commitment," Baxter said. "Some think it's really long and they get scared. We are right there to help guide them through it and help them develop that relationship."

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