INDIANAPOLIS — Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana saw its largest group of "littles" graduate high school and now they're preparing for bright futures.
But the accomplishment is shining a light on the need for more mentors as the organization now has hundreds of kids on its wait list.
"I didn't have any older siblings. I was just there to be there," Mariah, a little, said. "I had little siblings, so I didn't really have nobody there to mentor me."
It's an opportunity of a lifetime to be able to pour into our youth.
"Every kid deserves a mentor in their life," Valory Myers, a board member and big sister, said. "Someone that could help them find their own spark, and what makes them unique, and what gives them energy."
Myers matched with her “little” Mariah five years ago.
"I'll be able to say I knew Mariah when, before she was famous," Myers said.
Myers said when she met Mariah, she instantly saw a lot of similarities from when she was that age.
"She had the potential in her all along," Myers said. "It's just being able to foster that spark and see her thrive."
On Sunday, Myers watched as Mariah delivered a speech at a ceremony honoring Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana "littles" who graduated high school this year.
Big Brothers Big Sisters celebrated 64 graduating matches, making this the biggest match group in its history.
"It felt sad, but it also made me proud of myself because I accomplished a goal," Mariah said.
Mariah's experience is one of many success stories from Big Brothers Big Sisters that board members want to see more of.
"I'm going to Ivy Tech for a year. I'm going to be studying child psychology," Mariah said.
Unfortunately, recruiting mentors has been a challenge.
"It's more than just a pandemic issue," Daniel Pierson, a board member and Big Brother Alumni, said.
Right now, there are nearly 1,400 kids on a waiting list looking to be matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister, but not enough mentors to go around. The majority of those on the waiting list are boys.
"We have also been targeting fraternities as well," Pierson said. "The challenge is there not only for boys, men to mentor the boys but particularly boys of color."
Big Brothers Big Sisters is using many strategies to match those on the waiting list partnering with different organizations to bring volunteers to those who are raising their hands for mentorship.
"It prepared me for a lot," Mariah said.
Mariah graduates next weekend. And her “Big” is marking the occasion by taking her on her first trip out of the country, they're going to Mexico next month.
For information on how to volunteer, visit Big Brothers Big Sisters website.
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