THRIVE Partners with Big Brothers Big Sisters
by Barbara Antlitz
Do you want to be a mentor? The award-winning CAMP Rehoboth LGBTQ+ youth program, THRIVE, is partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware (BBBSDE).
“We are honored to be working with this organization, which has been serving Delaware youth and families since 1964, with the firm belief that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed,” says THRIVE’s Salvatore Seeley.
According to Tom Thunstrom, Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters Delaware, “While our agency has a long history of inclusiveness in service towards youth, several years ago we identified a critical need to develop a specialized mentoring program for LGBTQ+ youth. We have gone on to work with many schools and community organizations statewide in subsequent years.”
Now, THRIVE and BBBSDE are teaming up to find LGBTQ mentors willing to be big brothers and big sisters to work specifically with LGBTQ youngsters identified by the BBBSDE.
So, how does mentoring work? Mentoring supports, encourages, and helps children by providing an avenue to connect and empathize. The key in that approach is consistency and presence. Mentorship works best when the “big” (adult) mentor is present on a regular basis to support and provide guidance for the “little” (child) mentee.
Thunstrom goes on to say “We are proud to partner and ally with CAMP Rehoboth, supporting their tremendous efforts in Southern Delaware by offering one-to-one mentoring that builds upon the efforts that are currently taking place in area middle and high schools. Additionally, BBBSDE has recommitted its efforts to reach out and advocate for safe, effective mentoring by hiring a case worker in Sussex County who will provide resources and support for individualized mentoring for LGBTQ youth.”
According to BBBSDE, a 2017 CDC study on youth risk behavior reported that 13 percent of Delaware high school students self-identified as LGBTQ+, and faced significant stressors putting them at greater risk for depression, high-risk behaviors, and suicide. These students were almost twice as likely as non-LGBTQ+ youth to report lacking an adult to talk to about personal problems. These increased risk factors make the need for mentoring all the more critical.
The role of BBBSDE is to support that mentoring relationship. It provides mentors with the resources and support necessary to help guide mentees through an unsettled world. The organization, under the leadership of training manager Tiyona McCollister trains prospective mentors—prior to working with a mentee—in child safety, inclusion, and how to effectively engage and work with a mentee. It also ensures mentors are vetted, performing background checks prior to bringing on a potential adult volunteer. As part of the process to match a mentor with a mentee, BBBSDE interviews and matches interests between the two to make sure the mentoring relationship is durable. They also provide ongoing match support to make sure matches are progressing successfully.
Barbara Antlitz, CAMP Rehoboth Youth Coordinator, works with Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) in middle and high schools in Kent and Sussex Counties, and with other groups supporting LGBTQ+ youth. Barbara can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.