Corrine Freeman, BICC Starfish director, introduced council members to the nonprofit’s latest revamped program, Bridging the Gap.
“The primary need for this program is mentors,” Freeman said. “It surprises me to no end in a community that is as caring as we are, it is very hard to get mentors.”
She admitted part of the difficulty in getting mentors was due to the commitment requested of volunteers.
All mentors are asked to meet with their mentees for one hour every week for a year. Accounting for scheduling issues, this roughly equates to 52 weeks. Another way of looking at it is 52 of the 8,760 hours in a year. Mentors still have 8,713 hours to spare outside of the program.
Each mentor is asked to make this commitment for the betterment of the mentee.
“The children we get are used to instability,” Freeman said. “They are used to people not staying in their lives for long.”
According to Freeman, the list of mentees will continue to grow. However, the list of mentors could stand to gain a few names. Another mentor training workshop will occur later in July. Anyone interested in becoming a mentor must first complete the training.
The impact of mentors reaches beyond the youth enrolled in the program.
“It is a hands-on opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life. It is not just that child, but in that family,” Freeman said. “For those of you who are parents, you know that knowing your child is doing well helps you do better.”
Additional programs discussed were Transitions, Starfish and Inspiring Tomorrow’s Leaders Today.
Kerri Clouse, Transitions director, explained the family strengthening program to the gathered health council members.
The goal of Transitions is to strengthen families with children ages 10 to 14 who are either going from elementary school to middle school or from middle school to high school.
The program allows for parents and youth to have separate lessons, as well as family building and lesson time. Each meeting in either the seven-week or 14-week program begins with a family meal.
Youth work on their listening skills, learn how to manage stress, practice setting and reaching goals, discuss problem solving and study ways to resist peer pressure.
Parents and caregivers first learn the normal developmental changes to expect from their child. Program leaders discuss how parents can encourage good behaviors, use effective consequences, protect against risks and share expectations and family values.
Clouse said 14 families, or 44 individuals, have been helped since the program began in August 2012.
“Our program focuses on education. We are not clinical. We are not therapy,” Clouse said. “We are teaching parents the planning, communication and organizational skills they need.”
Various activities are planned throughout the program to encourage interaction between family members. These activities also provide an opportunity for parents and children to learn more about each other.
The next 7-week Transitions program will be offered for free in August.
A BICC pamphlet accurately explained the third program discussed at Thursday’s meeting: “Starfish exists to aid parents, as their child’s first and most important teacher, to maximize their child’s future in school and life.”
Bradley County parents or guardians with a child 3 and under, mothers who are expecting and families with qualified need can enroll in the program. Focus is placed on the young age due to the “rapid and extensive” brain development before the child’s first birthday.
The program offers personal visits on a monthly basis, group connections, screenings and a resource network.
Parents are given the necessary tools to give their children “the best possible start” while providing a firm foundation for success in life. A part of the child’s foundation are early assessments for general health, vision, hearing, development and early learning.
Freeman explained ITLT is another program once again being offered by BICC. She said the youth-oriented program has seen rapid growth and development since Chrissy Jones took over.
“It is for youth who are in middle and high school to develop their leadership skills through service,” Freeman said. “So it is two pronged. They learn how to be a leader and they put those skills into practice by doing service projects within the community.”
Middle school participants meet bimonthly at the local Boys & Girls Clubs facility. High school age members meet on alternate weeks at the YMCA to plan projects and undergo leadership training. An ITLT pamphlet explains all students in the program “participate in monthly community service projects and fun activities.”
More information can be found on these projects by visiting BICC’s website at www.bicc-inc.org.