“Link Up” is geared towards building self-esteem and prosocial behaviors
January is National Mentoring Month
PHOENIX (January 13, 2022) – Stress. Fear. Anxiety. Grief. Studies show that the mental health crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic is perhaps even greater for adolescents who are struggling to cope with a rollercoaster of emotions, and in many cases, depression. It’s a key reason why the Arizona Lottery presented a $50,000 Gives Back Sponsorship check to Big Brothers Bigs Sisters of Flagstaff (BBBSF) today to help fund a unique group mentoring program, called “Link Up”, working with children 15 years and older.
Starting later this month, a group of eligible teens will meet weekly with BBBSF volunteer mentors to participate in off-site group sporting, social, cultural, and volunteer events designed to help build self-esteem and promote prosocial behaviors. BBBSF volunteer mentors will track teens to follow their progress and work to build positive relationships with teens’ families.
For more than 50 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Flagstaff has been making meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers, (Bigs), and children (Littles) in Flagstaff and Williams. Littles traditionally range in age from six to 15.
“Our goal is to nurture children and strengthen communities,” said Kelly Elliott, BBBSF CEO and executive director. “Research has shown that the shared experiences between Bigs and Littles have a direct and lasting impact on young people's lives. Our hope is that “Link Up” will fill a void for teens who are too old for our traditional program. We also hope to expand our pool of mentors with this new group format.”
Mentoring Makes a Difference
The Arizona Lottery and BBBSF chose to announce their unique partnership during National Mentoring Month to shine a light on the importance of mentorship. Studies have shown that young adults who face an opportunity gap but have a mentor are 55% more likely to get a higher education than peers who do not possess a mentor. In addition, research conducted by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America found that after 18 months of spending time with their Bigs, the Littles, compared to children not in the program, were:
- 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs
- 27% less likely to begin using alcohol
- 52% less likely to skip school
Mentoring is Rewarding
Neil Weintraub, a BBBSF board member, has been mentoring Littles for more than 20 years. He started volunteering his time in the school-based program, but in recent years, moved to the community-based program, which offers more flexibility.
“I came from a single-parent home in New York, and my next-door neighbor took me under his wing. One day, after my parents’ divorce, he asked me to join him on a run. That one conversation changed my life. Running kept me out of trouble, and I developed a lifelong passion for it,” Weintraub said.
Now retired, Weintraub cherishes his time as a Big to 10-year-old Little, Zach, who shares his passion for sports.
“There’s a great need for mentors, especially during this ongoing pandemic,” he said. “Too many kids are spending too much time playing games on computers. They’re not getting outdoors and having one-on-one interactions. Mentoring is also very rewarding. Not only is it a great feeling to see someone you mentored find happiness and stability in their life, but mentorship can take on many different forms and be applied throughout life.”
Arizona Lottery Gives Back to the Community
Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, the Arizona Lottery has generated more than $4.7 billion in support of programs that help to improve the quality of life for the people of Arizona.
Every year, hundreds of millions of dollars from Arizona Lottery ticket sales go to programs and organizations doing good in four key areas: higher education, health and human services, environmental conservation, and economic and business development.
“When Big Brothers Big Sisters of Flagstaff shared their vision for the new ‘Link Up’ program, we knew we wanted to help turn that idea into a reality,” said Arizona Lottery Executive Director Gregg Edgar. “The Arizona Lottery is all about making dreams come true and doing good in our community, and this is the very type of program that our Gives Back sponsorships are designed to support. Our Gives Back Sponsorships are funded with Arizona Lottery marketing dollars that, instead of being used in traditional advertising campaigns, are to help non-profits across Arizona to help accomplish their missions while helping us to tell our story.”
For more information about BBBSF, or to donate, visit www.flagstaffbigs.org.