Big Brothers Big Sisters program in need of mentors

The Centre County Youth Service Bureau has a higher-than-normal need for volunteer mentors.

Usually, there are about 30 to 50 kids waiting to be paired with volunteers for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, but that number is at about 75 right now, said Chief Executive Officer Andrea Boyles, who gave a presentation to the Board of Commissioners at its meeting Tuesday.

The YSB is organizing a campaign to try to recruit 50 new volunteers for the program in 50 days and cut some of the demand by matching children with new mentors.

“We are really trying to create a sense of urgency around the kids that are ready to be matched,” she said.

Volunteers are asked to commit a full year, because studies have shown that’s the minimum amount of time it takes to develop a strong bond with the child, YSB program coordinator Jodi Morelli said. The program serves kids age 5 to 17, and adults of any age are welcome to volunteer.

Anyone interested in volunteering should go to an orientation session for additional details about the program and then fill out an application. The volunteer candidates will answer questions about themselves during the application process to make a match that would work out well with proximity and interests.

Boyles added that YSB is looking especially for volunteers in the Penns Valley area. It’s sometimes harder to match rural kids, she said, because mentors from State College can’t make the drive out on a weekly basis, she said.

There also are opportunities for the volunteers to meet with their kids in group settings, like at lunch during school.

Board Chairman Steve Dershem said that the program is important because it teaches kids communication skills with others, which is an important part of life in later years.

“This reinforces and enriches that for so many young kids who may not have a lot of interaction outside their immediate family groups,” he said.