Big Brothers Big Sisters looks to serve more youth

Posted: Thursday, February 03, 2011

Big Brothers Big Sisters is looking to serve even more youth this year — 86 more.

The group served 213 youngsters last year, 158 are ongoing matches with the program through the new year.

The Juneau branch of the program, which began in 1979, has served more than 1,400 youth and currently has two programs: community and school-based.

Youth in the community program can stay in until they are 18 or graduate high school. Enrollment and matching specialist Toren Ulrikson said there will be five youth in May who will no longer be able to participate as a “Little.”

Development Director Bob Coghill said it may not always be apparent the effect mentoring has on the youth.

“Sometimes you think, gosh why am I doing this?” he said. “We’ve done some studies. We’re very intentional. Our kids are half as likely to use illegal drugs, a quarter less likely to start drinking, half as likely to skip school, they do better in school, a third less likely to resort to violence, they’re more trusting of parents/guardians and behave better in school. That’s from a study that’s about three years old.”

A study completed last summer found that the “Little” alums tend to make quite a bit more money than their peers, are more successful at relationships and are more likely to volunteer in their communities.

Katy Jordan, community program leader, said some other programs focus on group mentoring or reading buddies.

“Our success goes back to the friendship based, one to one, professionally supported mentoring,” she said. “Every young person needs five adults — people they can talk to that support them. A lot of the kids we serve are at-risk. There’s so many different reasons kids need adults in our lives.”

Ulrikson said there currently aren’t any youth on a waiting list for a match from the community program, but there are 20 on the school program waiting list.

Coghill emphasized the constant need for adult mentors. He said there is a myth that many people feel like they don’t have the skills to share with youth. Coghill said he had a conversation with a laborer who had that mind-set recently.

“He has so many more skills than I do,” said Coghill, who is also a mentor. “He actually knows what the different sports teams are doing.”

Coghill said people have different skills, interests and knowledge bases that will connect with different children.

He also encourages people to not be afraid of mentoring over concerns about time and money. Coghill said mentoring only takes about an hour a week and the program has different kinds of vouchers for activities, along with group activities like whale watching, zip lining, a summer picnic, ropes course, an Echo Ranch visit once a summer, a rock dump, ice skating, pumpkin carving, hiking and an array of other things.

For more information on Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Alaska, and the Juneau group, visit:

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at

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