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Bigs and Littles: In school mentoring a much-needed program

Jeff Colburne has been volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colchester as an in-school mentor for about five years. His ‘little’ is Logan and the duo have a great time together.
Jeff Colburne has been volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colchester as an in-school mentor for about five years. His ‘little’ is Logan and the duo have a great time together. - Submitted

By: Anna Rutherford

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colchester’s In School Mentoring Program started as a pilot project in 1997 at Alice Street School. Since then it’s grown to be offered in many schools throughout Colchester County and we currently have more than 30 children waiting to be matched with an in school mentor.

In School Mentoring differs from our core program because it all takes place at the child’s school with no evenings, weekends, or summertime commitment. We simply ask for a 10 month commitment during the school year, with weekly visits of one hour during school hours.

The objective of the In School Mentoring Program is to build to a positive, new friendship which helps to strengthen a child’s self-esteem, confidence and school performance.  Studies have shown that other benefits to the child include a more positive attitude toward school and improved relationships with not only adults but with their peers.

This is not an academic program. It’s intended to relieve students from the stressors they may be facing in the classroom and provide them with the time and space to decompress doing fun activities with their mentor such as colouring, playing board games, playing outside on school grounds, or simply just talking.

Jeff Colburne has been volunteering with our agency as an in school mentor for about five years and has been matched with Logan for three and a half. Jeff is a franchisee owner and looks forward to the break in his day when he can come spend time with Logan, just chatting and having fun.

“I first saw the ad in the paper for in school mentors years ago when I was just moving back to the area. One hour a week during school hours seemed like a good fit for me, being a business owner and a busy dad with two young children at home. I felt like it was a small way I could give back to my community, which is really important to me.”

This is such a small commitment for a volunteer and such a big reward for a child. Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Canada found that 90 per cent of mentors saw a positive change in the child they were mentoring, 88 per cent of students showed improved literacy skills, and 64 per cent had developed higher levels of self-esteem.

We are hoping to find employers in the community who are open to giving their employees flexible hours. This program takes place during traditional work hours, so our challenge is finding volunteers who are available to meet with students. Partnering with community minded businesses that see the benefit in allowing their employees the time to volunteer will be what strengthens this program and allows it to grow in our community.

“Being a business owner allows me the flexibility to make this a part of my weekly schedule. I look forward to the time away from my desk. It’s just a lot of fun to come spend time with Logan,” said Jeff.

Research completed by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada shows employees who are given the opportunity to give back to their community through their employer are more productive, feel more positive about the company that they work for, and are more engaged.

With the positive growth in Truro and the surrounding areas in the last few years, there has been a restored sense of community. We are excited to develop new partnerships with businesses and organizations in our community, to better serve the children and youth of Colchester.

From all us here at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colchester, thank you to our community volunteers, partners and champions who make Colchester a great place to live, work and play.

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