Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Mentoring program seeks male volunteers

More than 70 boys in the West Alabama area are waiting for male mentors through Big Brothers Big Sisters, and UA business students are on a mission to fix this.

The students are in a small business consulting class and are working with Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Alabama. Their goal is to bring in more male mentors, particularly of African-American descent, said Travis Ray, a second-year graduate student in theater management, who is leading his group of five students.

Ray and his team have been doing research to find the root of the problem. They discovered that one of the main roadblocks for bringing in new volunteers is a lack of knowledge about what is required.

“People think it’s a long time period, but it’s only an hour a week,” Ray said.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Alabama serves around 400 children annually, ranging from the ages of 4 to 18. The children are partnered with older “brothers” and “sisters” who dedicate as much time as they can each week to building and encouraging relationship with their “littles.”

Nikki Richardson, the executive director of BBBS of West Alabama, named other issues, such as low self-esteem and misunderstanding, as reasons why males may not be signing up.

“Men expect perfection out of themselves,” Richardson said. “You don’t have to be perfect; you just have to care.”

Females are more likely to mentor than males because mentoring is perceived as a “nurturing” task, Ray said.

Richardson said at least 70 boys in West Alabama are without a male mentor, and the entire waiting list for BBBS is composed of males. Last fall, Richardson started working with professor Lou Marino, who teaches the small business consulting class. She said she wanted to start focusing all efforts on bringing in male mentors.

“In order to be a man, you must see a man,” Richardson said. “It’s important for those children to see how a real man would respect authority or treat a woman. They need someone to encourage them, play sports with them and show them that it’s not un-cool to do well in school.”

Since the five team members have identified these barriers, they have been trying to reach potential volunteers through such areas as social media, fraternities and churches.

“A lot of students need community service hours, or for their fraternity,” Ray said. “As a male, these children really need a mentor to support their growth.”

Junior Tyler Pritchard became a “big” a year ago. He picks up his 14-year-old little from school once a week and brings him to his fraternity house to play basketball and football.

“It’s not something you should be apprehensive about,” Pritchard said. “You can mold and shape a young kid that will look up to you one day and follow your example.”

In a survey conducted on the 2010 littles, 85 percent agreed their experience has influenced them in having confidence in their abilities. Pritchard said his little used to be shy in school, but since becoming his brother, he has transformed into a young man able to comfortably interact with other people.

“It’s nice to know I’ve had something to do with him being able to do that now,” Pritchard said. “You’re able to help a kid who maybe doesn’t have the opportunity of male influence, and it’s good to give them that connection.”

Team member Owen Cooper, a senior majoring in management with a specialization in entrepreneurship, said he joined the BBBS consulting group because it is a cause he believes in. He said a lot of people overlook the impact an older mentor can have on the life of a child from a single parent home.

“The mentees are coming from rough situations,” Cooper said. “It’s only an hour a week. That’s all they ask. Nobody’s that busy. We can all do an hour.”

Marino said when putting teams together, he had hopes for the BBBS team because of their skills and backgrounds.

“This group has hit it out of the ball park,” Marino said. “The client is very satisfied and, based on the interim project reports I have seen, the students are going to produce a final product that will significantly improve the client’s ability to reach their target population.”

To become a mentor with BBBS, call 758-5734 or email [email protected]. Anyone interested in becoming a big will have a chance to meet at BBBS on 6th Street in Tuscaloosa.



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