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Thursday, February 25, 2021

More ‘Big Brothers’ and ‘Big Sisters’ needed in community

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Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana (BBBSCI) recently began a virtual initiative to find mentors willing to uphold its commitment to youth in Indianapolis by partnering with the Indianapolis Indians.

A virtual recruitment campaign, “The Big Pitch,” runs from June 1 through June 30 and targets companies, individuals, businesses and community partners across the city to encourage adults to volunteer as a “Big,” or mentor.

“We really focus on that inherent potential in every child,” CEO Darcey Palmer-Shultz said. “They’re great kids. Our job is to connect them with people that will work with them, their parents and our team to encourage them to develop that potential.”

The organization creates and supports one-to-one mentoring relationships for local youth.

Once matched, the youth can remain in the program until they’re 18 years old or until they graduate from high school.

Mentor Willie Little signed up the day a grand jury declined to charge police officer Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

“At the time, I felt like everybody wanted to be a social media activist, but I wanted to be about action,” he said.

Little met his mentee, Nigel Woodfolk, two or three months after signing up. The connection was instant between the two. Due to a lack of mentors in the community, Woodfolk had been on BBBSCI’s waitlist for more than four years. He was finally matched with a “Big” when he was a middle-schooler.

The Recorder is not using the last names for mentees because it is BBBSCI’s policy to not release last names for minors.

“I think this matters in our community because there are so many people that have no direction,” said Woodfolk, now a recent high school graduate. “Mentors help them stay on track and give them a good role model to look up to.”

Today, BBBSCI serves more than 1,400 children annually in Marion, Johnson and Hamilton counties. Hundreds of youth in Central Indiana, like Woodfolk, are still waiting for a “Big” of their own.

According to BBBSCI, the youth achieve higher self-confidence, better performance in school and avoidance of risky behaviors after just one year in the program. Each mentorship is customized to suit a child’s individual needs and interests.

“I think a mentor is somebody who is really interested in learning and growing. It’s a relationship and a friendship,” Palmer-Shultz said. “As much as mentors are there to guide and encourage the young person, it really has to be reciprocal for it to have the best impact.”

Woodfolk and Little were recently awarded Big and Little Brother of the Year at BBBSCI, which honored their long-lasting relationship.

“The Indianapolis community has a ton of little boys that are on a waiting list right now that need help. A lot of the people that are helping don’t look like me,” Little said. “There are a lot of successful Black men in the city that need to step up and be a part of this.”

Woodfolk plans to attend Little’s alma mater, the University of Indianapolis, to pursue a degree in pharmaceutical studies.

Contact newsroom intern Mikaili Azziz at 317-924-5143. Follow her on Twitter @mikailiazziz.

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