Wanted: American Indian mentors
Condensed by Native Village
Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of
America wants to help youth in American Indian and Alaska Native
Their Native American Mentoring
Initiative( NAMI) works to include
more Native children and
months, we have been able to serve
American children with our targeted
program,” said Jolene Aguilar, San
are working with tribal communities.
Indian advisors and elders guide the
NAMI program to ensure that it is
“It’s been a wonderful opportunity
for us,” said Taber Rehbaum from
BBBS of Alaska. “We were a good
fit for this initiative.”
33% of the kids
in BBBS of Alaska are Alaska Native.
Alaska Native youth face domestic
violence, substance abuse, teen
suicide and drop-out rates. “The need is just enormous.
In a healthy community, there would
be less need for us.”
BBBS matches children with strong,
long-term mentors. These mentors
and guidance to help enrich and
improve the child's live.
advisors are also imperative to the
people in the community to take
action,” Rehbaum said. “We are doing
it in a slow and deliberate manner.
We are learning every day.”
National research shows
that children in
BBBS mentoring programs
less likely to begin
using illegal drugs,
less likely to begin
percent less likely to
A key to BBBS success is the length of the
relationship between the child and
are asked to commit to a year or
more. The longer the relationship,
the more beneficial the effects.
For mentors, it’s an opportunity to
share knowledge and
experience and make a difference in
a child’s life.
“Very often, the friendships that
form are lifetime,” Rehbaum said.
hopes to make
2,000 new Native
target agencies by the
To date, Native American mentoring
Both Aguilar and Rehbaum said the
need is particularly great for
Native American male mentors. More than
children waiting for mentors are
boys, but only
from men. “...They’re in great demand for
many things,” Rehbaum said.
Aguilar and Rehbaum see
the trend slowly turning. It begins
with changing the
mindsets of potential volunteers. No
special skills or degrees are
“You don’t have to be
Mother Theresa to be a good
volunteer,” Rehbaum said. “We’re not
asking you to be a perfect person.”
Aguilar also emphasized mentoring
only requires about
per month. But it’s time that
can change a child’s life forever.
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