Big Brothers Big Sisters wants more Black men to become mentors to Black boys
For Andre Walker, being a mentor at Big Brothers Big Sisters is more than just spending time with a young person. It’s about representation. He wants to be an example of a successful “everyday Black man” to his mentee — or “Little Brother.”
“I've noticed that a lot of our [Black] youth, they tend to [gravitate] towards the athletes or the entertainers because that's what they see on their phones, on social media, on all of these different platforms,” Walker told St. Louis on the Air. “I know with me and my mentee, just from some of the conversations that we've had, he has been able to see another way for him. And it's opened up so many doors already for his path.”
Since 2002, the U.S. has observed National Mentoring Month. National research conducted by Mentor, the mentoring advocacy organization, shows that young people are less likely to participate in risky behaviors if they have mentors in their lives.
Ericka Sanders, vice president of Community Outreach and Volunteer Recruitment at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri, told St. Louis on the Air that the data is reflective of local efforts as well.
“85% of our alumni graduate high school,” Sanders said. “[Former mentees] either go on to higher education, they go straight into what we hope is gainful employment for them, or they even look into [enlisting in] the military.”
In Missouri, Big Brothers Big Sisters found success in mentors and volunteers who have similar demographic backgrounds as the youth and families they serve. While volunteers of all backgrounds are welcome, Sanders said the need for more Black male volunteers is critical because the majority of the youth waiting to be paired with a mentor are Black boys.
“[Families we work with] desire someone that they can relate to. Someone that their children can identify with, and have that sense of compatibility and relatability,” she said. “We want to honor that desire to have who [the parents] want to see in their child's life.”
For more about becoming a mentor, including personal anecdotes from Ericka Sanders about her own daughter’s experience as a “Little Sister” at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify or Google Podcast, or by clicking the play button below.
What: MentorFest! 2024
When: 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 30
Where: Anew, 519 N. Grand Ave., St. Louis, MO 63103
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.