Native Village
Youth and Education news
 MAY 1, 2010   VOLUME 2

Wanted: American Indian mentors
Condensed by Native Village

New Mexico: Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of America wants to help youth in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Their Native American Mentoring Initiative( NAMI) works to include more Native children and adults.

In just 10 months, we have been able to serve close to 400 Native American children with our targeted program,” said Jolene Aguilar, San Ildefonso Pueblo.

29 agencies are working with tribal communities. Indian advisors and elders guide the NAMI program to ensure that it is culturally correct.

“It’s been a wonderful opportunity for us,” said Taber Rehbaum from BBBS of Alaska. “We were a good fit for this initiative.”

Rehbaum said
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 provide friendship and guidance to help enrich and improve the child's live.

Native American advisors are also imperative to the NAMI's success.

“We’re mobilizing 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 are:

46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs,
27% less likely to begin using alcohol,
52% percent less likely to skip school


A key to BBBS success is the length of the relationship between the child and mentor. Volunteers 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.

NAMI hopes to make 2,000 new Native matches in 30 target agencies by the end of 2010. To date, Native American mentoring matches total 2,081.

Both Aguilar and Rehbaum said the need is particularly great for Native American male mentors. More than 70% of children waiting for mentors are boys, but only 30% of volunteer inquiries come 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 required.

“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
3-4 hours per month. But it’s time that can change a child’s life forever.

Native American Mentoring Initiative information: contact Jolene Aguilar:

 Native American Mentoring Initiative


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