Big Brother Big Sister program returns to Jefferson County
JP was a shy 14-year-old boy who would not communicate his thoughts or feelings. He tended to bottle things up until he exploded.
Then, JP met Maitreya through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Oregon program.
"Maitreya has been an amazing Big Brother to me," JP says when sharing his story. "He helps me to conquer my fears and try new things."
Now, JP is more confident and social.
"I now like to talk with people more and know that they are not instantly judging me," JP says. "I used to feel like everyone was making fun of me. Now, I do not feel that way."
Big Brother Maitreya says JP's attitudes about the future have also radically changed.
"Prospects which once frightened him, like going to college or learning to drive, have turned into challenges that he is ready to tackle," says Maitreya, who was named the 2021 Central Oregon and Oregon State's Big Brother of the Year.
Jefferson County folks will once again have an opportunity to make an impact on local youths, like Maitreya and JP. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Oregon has a newly established presence in Jefferson County after being away for more than a year.
"We are excited to begin our program in Jefferson County," said Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Oregon Director Sandy Cassio. "We want the community to know about several key needs. We need to recruit mentors and mentees. We also need donations, business sponsors and collaborative partners."
The local organization follows programing of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, which has been in existence for 117 years. The program's mission is to create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the promise and power of youth. It is funded by local donors and sponsors.
The program serves kids ages 6 to 21 in Crook, Deschutes and now Jefferson counties through one-to-one mentoring relationships. Mentees are called "Littles," and adult mentors are called "Bigs."
The program matches youth with caring adults and maintains professionally supported mentoring relationships between Littles and Bigs. It provides ongoing training and coaching to Bigs and resources to Littles and their families. It connects Littles and Bigs with community resources that help make match meetings meaningful and fun.
Cassio says mentoring improves the futures of mentees through improved relationships, better grades, and achievement of higher levels of education. Young people with a mentor grow personally and have better social and economic opportunities than those who do not.
Those interested in mentoring must be at least 21 years old, have a valid driver's license and commit to being a Big for at least one year. Mentors will meet with their mentees two or three times a month and maintain ongoing communication with Big Brothers Big Sisters staff.
Cassio said their goal for 2021-2022 is to match 36 children in Jefferson County. Over the past 17 years, they have successfully served more than 400 children in Jefferson County, and this year they opened a program in Culver, matching 15 more children.
"We need to renew our presence in Jefferson County," Cassio said. "We will empower the next generation and redefine what is possible for children in Jefferson County."
The office is currently in the Jefferson County Health Department. Nancy Diaz was the Jefferson County program coordinator from 2005 to 2015 and has stepped into the role again. She has served as Culver city councilor and mayor.
"Big Brothers Big Sisters is very important to me. I want every child who wants a mentor to have a mentor," Diaz said.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Oregon
Those interested in being a mentor or a mentee may contact Jefferson County Program Coordinator Nancy Diaz, 541-604-0287.
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