Men as Mentors: How To Change a Child’s Life (Extended Version)

How do you change a child’s life? Yeah, we know that’s a loaded question. Mentorship impacts everyone, no matter your age. As adults we still crave it, that sense of direction, help and guidance. We want to learn how to do things better, more efficiently and with the approval and satisfaction we are doing it right.

So do our kids.

For more than 40 years Big Brothers Big Sisters of Siouxland has operated under the belief that every child has the ability to succeed and thrive in life. But sometimes, opportunity isn’t equal. Currently there are about 20 boys ages 6 – 12 on the waiting list to be matched with male mentors. Some of these children have been waiting over a year.

We sat down Executive Director Kristie Arlt, and Bigs, Tyler Kruse and Kevin Schultz to talk more about their experience as a Big and what their relationship means to them and their Little.

SM: How are the boys in the program impacted by their male mentor?

(Kristie) I am so proud to say that we have countless success stories! Most boys in our program who are matched with positive, caring male mentors begin to do better in school, their social skills improve and overall they feel more confident. That’s the power of mentorship.  

SM: How do they involve their families?

(Kristie) We have many Big Couples and Big Families in our program.  This is a great way to involve your spouse or entire family in the joy of mentoring a young person in our community.

SM: What is the success rate for mentors and kids?  

(Kristie) Our latest survey shows children in our mentoring program after 18 months of spending consistent time with their Bigs were 46% less likely to begin using drugs and alcohol and 52% less likely to skip school. The children in our program also demonstrated improved grades and said their peer relationships improved and bullying went down.

SM: Why do you think there are fewer male mentors?

(Kristie) BBBS agencies across the country are seeing a shortage of male mentors, so the issue is not unique to Siouxland. I think we need to do a better job of educating people in our community what is entailed when you sign up to be a mentor.  The time commitment is not as much as people may believe. A person can make a positive impact my mentoring a child for just 4 hours a month.

SM: How are boys in the BBBS program impacted by their male mentor?

(Tyler) I think the most common, and important way that we make an impact is by being a positive male role model in the little’s life. A lot of the Littles are in the program for various reasons, but from my experience I think the most common is that the Little’s family wants them to have a positive male figure in their lives.

SM: How long have you been a mentor to Brandon?

(Tyler) We’ve been matched for over three years now. I can still remember the first night I went to his apartment to do the match meeting. We went to dinner after that to get to know each other. I have seen Brandon grow and develop so much since we have been matched.

SM: What kinds of activities do you do with your Little?

(Tyler) Me and Brandon are both very active people. When we are together that correlates into what we usually do for activities. I would say our most frequent activity would be going to the arcade at the mall. We are both very competitive so it is always fun finding games that we can go against each other and see who wins. BBBS does a great job putting on match activities so we always like to participate in those, such as the Wild Water West trip, Winter Olympics (reigning champs), kick-ball at the park.

SM: Why do you think there are fewer male mentors than female mentors?

(Tyler) I think that there is a lack of male mentors due to the fact that they just do not fully understand the program, or what mentorship really means. I was unsure when I first became a Big on what all went into being a Big. Now that I have been a Big for over 3 years I can say that the commitment is really minimal, but with that, the Little gets so much out of it, and even I have gotten so much from being in the match.

SM:  What have you learned about yourself?

(Tyler) Being in the program has really reiterated what is important in life, which is how you can help other people or how you make people feel. I have seen that everyone has a different situation, but that in no way shapes who they are as people. I have found out that mentoring is a lot more fun than I thought it would be and that you can learn a lot from a kid. I have really enjoyed every minute of being a match and wish that I would have gotten into the program sooner.

SM: How does it feel to give your time to your Little? .

(Tyler) When we are able to hang out, it’s always worth it. I always end the activity and drop him back off at home and I can tell that it has changed my entire day. I can go from being stressed out and tired from work, but after spending some time with Brandon I can tell that my mood has changed and I am no longer stressed or worried about what is going on at work, but rather I am focused on having a good time with Brandon.

“There will never be a ‘perfect’ time to get involved and give up some of your time. Time is so valuable to all of us, but trust me, after seeing how much of an impact you can have on your little’s life, it is worth giving some of it up to be in the program. It will change your little’s life, but it will also change yours.” Tyler Kruse, Big to Brandon

SM: How do male mentors with families’ juggle both roles?

(Kevin) Fortunately, my employer, Klinger Companies, Inc. is fully invested in the community and understands the importance of giving back, so I’m able to leave work a little early on the days I spend time with Cristian at his school. When employers support and encourage their employees to get involved with the community, it makes balancing responsibilities so much easier.

SM: What changes have you seen in Cristian since he was matched with you?

(Kevin) Obviously, his comfort level with me has increased and his confidence in general has grown. He’s such a good kid I can’t really imagine him getting into trouble, but his Beyond the Bell teachers have told me his behavior has improved even when I’m not there.

SM: What have you learned about yourself?

(Kevin) I think it’s made me a better parent. Discussions with my Little have made me think about things with my own children and their perspective on life.

SM: What would you say to a man in our community who is unsure if he should get involved?

(Kevin) Everyone has something to offer. A lot of people doubt they would make a good mentor or don’t think they have enough time. But in reality, the time commitment of an hour a week or a few hours a month is relatively minimal and the potential impact is immeasurable.

Want to know more about becoming a BIG? Talk to one of our BBBS Ambassadors! Visit us at http://www.bigbrothersbigsisters.com/ or call 712-239-9890 to learn more. Follow along with all the good that is happening at BBBS on our Facebook page. Feeling generous? Donate or volunteer for any of our events supporting our Littles and their Bigs!

Contributed By Executive Director Kristie Arlt, and Bigs, Tyler Kruse and Kevin Schultz