In the state of Utah, over 91,000 children are living in poverty, and many of them face additional risk factors such as having an incarcerated parent or residing in foster or kinship care. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah (BBBSU) is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of these children, aged 6-18, who are dealing with these and other risk factors. Through volunteer opportunities in Utah, you can step into the lives of these young individuals by becoming a Big. Bigs and Littles together are referred to as a “mentoring match.” Matches come together in various settings: the community, schools, or workplaces, typically meeting two to three times each month. The best part is, that these mentorship dynamics can blossom into lasting and lifelong friendships.
Our one-on-one mentoring initiatives lead to important outcomes for the Littles in the BBBSU programs. The four key areas BBBSU programs strive to help Littles are:
- Encouraging Educational Achievement
- Supporting Emotional Well-Being
- Building Life Skills
- Promoting Positive Choices
Here’s a deeper dive on how BBBSU programs (and you!) help Littles in these key areas.
Promoting Positive Choices
Mentorship has a profound impact on decision-making for children and teenagers. With a mentor’s guidance, Littles are less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as substance abuse or delinquency. In 2021, nearly 40% of Utah students reported being bullied. Having a mentor helps many kids improve their behaviors and make good choices. A mentor’s positive influence not only fosters responsible decision-making but also empowers Littles to pursue their goals and aspirations with greater confidence.
Here’s a look at the impact of mentors helping promote Littles’ positive choices:
- 98% of Littles avoided substance use
- 92% of Littles had fewer or no increase in school discipline issues and bullying behaviors
- 98% of Littles had fewer or no increase in status offense (e.g. gang involvement)
Building Life Skills
Through a mentor’s guidance, Littles not only acquire practical knowledge but also gain exposure to exciting experiences, diverse opportunities, and new perspectives. Bigs can impart a wide range of skills, from cooking to goal setting and strategic planning. These interactions broaden their horizons and, in turn, inspire them to delve deeper into their interests and passions, setting them on a path toward personal growth and self-discovery.
Research shows that children’s relationships with peers and caring adults are key to learning critical life skills, such as teamwork, communication, and coping with and expressing feelings.
Here are a few statistics between 2020 and 2022 that show the impact of Bigs helping Littles build life skills:
- 83% of Littles improved or maintained their goal-setting skills
- 90% of Littles reported better or sustained Social Competence (positive peer relationships)
Supporting Emotional Well-Being
As youth face various risk factors in their lives – either at home or at school, their emotional well-being is impacted. In 2020, suicide was the number one cause of death for kids ages 10-17 in Utah. In 2021, 75% of Utah kids reported depressive symptoms. Mentors can be assets to youth who are experiencing mental health difficulties, experiencing periods of stress, depression, anxiety, or other serious mental health challenges.
Here’s what BBBSU’s impact looks like in supporting emotional well-being for Littles:
- 26% of Littles saw reliable improvement, and an additional 54% saw no change in their depressive symptoms
- 92% of Littles reported ongoing or improved Emotional Regulation abilities
Encouraging Educational Achievement
According to Mentoring.org, a study conducted in 2013 showed that one in five American youth did not finish high school, and one in four African-Americans and one in five Hispanic students go to schools where graduating is not the norm. Since then, more than half of all new jobs will or now require postsecondary education. Furthermore, a report by BBBSU shows that economically disadvantaged students in Utah graduate at a rate 9.6% lower than their peers. This is the 11th largest difference in the country. Preparing youth for education and career opportunities in the future can begin with encouragement from a mentor in elementary, middle, and high school.
BBBSU’s impact on encouraging education achievement is shown in the following statistics:
- 95% of Littles graduated high school
- 80% of Littles improved or maintained their academic performance
- 94% of Littles stayed strong in their education expectations
The Impact You Can Make
With your help, one-to-one mentoring programs can lead to significant changes in Litte’s educational achievement, emotional well-being, life skills, and choices. To take part in volunteer opportunities in Utah and support our mission to empower and uplift these young lives, visit bbbsu.org/be-a-mentor. Becoming a mentor doesn’t take a lot of time, or money, or require certain qualifications, however, it can have a profound impact on the life of a child.