REACH BACK – Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bluegrass recently launched its Brothers Reaching Back initiative in an effort to recruit more men of color to serve as mentors. Pictured are new matches, Big Brother Da’John and Little Brother Tre’Von, and Big Brother Kareem and Little Brother Ty.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bluegrass (BBBS) recently launched its Brothers Reaching Back campaign in an effort to recruit more men of color as volunteers and to better serve children throughout Central Kentucky. When the campaign launched in early March, only four African-American males served as mentors in Fayette County. So far, two additional African-American men have been matched through BBBS, but their work is far from over. Nearly 120 African-American boys remain on the agency’s waiting list, many of whom have been waiting for more than two years.
Longtime BBBS board member and Big Brother Keith Slaughter has mentored his Little, Levi, since he was in elementary school. Levi is now preparing to graduate high school and attend college at the University of Louisville on a full scholarship.
“Goal setting was one thing that we worked on very early in our relationship,” Levi said. “This helped me to get my priorities straight from a young age, and the fun just came along with it.”
While many studies suggest that mentoring is a powerful way to equip, energize, empower, and elevate youth, the effect it can have on the mentor is often just as impactful.
“I started out thinking, ‘I can help this young man,’” Slaughter said. “But, he actually helped me in return. It’s really a two-way street.”
There are two ways to mentor with BBBS in Lexington – through the School-Plus program, in which a volunteer meets with a child during the school day for one hour each week at William Wells Brown, Breckinridge, or Booker T. Washington Elementary School; or through the Community-Based program, where matches meet a few times a month to participate in community activities (going to the park, sporting events, etc.). BBBS offers one-to-one mentorships that are flexible and professionally-supported to make the most of your time and impact. Families and volunteers are interviewed thoroughly to ensure that each match made is set up for success.
“When asked about their preferences for a mentor, responses from our kids range from, ‘I want him to like sports,’ to, ‘I want him to look like me,’” said Antonio Readus, BBBS case manager and recruitment specialist. “Through Brothers Reaching Back, we hope to recruit men who will inspire youth to reach beyond their adversity, reminding them that they, too, can be great. For just a few hours a month, you can invest in these boys and bring about change in the community.”
The two newest Brothers Reaching Back matches are Big Brother Da’John and Little Brother Tre’Von, and Big Brother Kareem and Little Brother Ty. Da’John and Tre’Von meet at school and were paired because of their passion and desire to help others. Kareem and Ty meet in the community program and are looking forward to being active together and going to the trampoline park.
“We are excited to watch these matches as their relationships grow,” Readus said. “Each match in our program has different interests and qualities that make them special. That’s what makes our program unique – we can help people from diverse backgrounds find ways to connect with one another, all while strengthening a child’s future.”
To learn how you can get involved, visit www.bbbs-bluegrass.org/reachback, call 859-231-8181, or join BBBS and other local mentoring agencies at the Youth Engagement Summit on Wednesday, May 17, at 9 a.m. at the Lyric Theater.