Shared Heritage Strengthens Match Relationship

Big Brothers Big Sisters currently has several specialized programs that focus on very specific groups of children that are looking for mentors. Though it is not required, match support specialists often find that it is beneficial when the mentor (Big) is the same ethnicity as the mentee (Little). Many times, shared heritage provides a common bond that can provide an added layer of trust to their relationship.

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Mentoring Brothers is Big Brothers Big Sisters’ website focused on recruiting African-American male mentors to match with young African-American males. Likewise, the Hispanic Mentoring program aims to match Latino children facing adversity with Latino Big Brothers or Big Sisters. Thanks to a grant through the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Big Brothers Big Sisters’ Native American mentoring initiative is gaining steam as it moves forward.

Kristy Smithson, manager of Native American partnerships for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma, understands the importance of matching Bigs and Littles from similar backgrounds, so she volunteers as a mentor. She and her Little Sister Shoshanna have been match for the past five years, and they have their Choctaw background in common. “When we match based on ethnicity, we find that matches have a closer bond,” said Big Sister Kristy. “With my Little, we do a lot of cultural events together, and I encourage that in her.”

Recently, a high-level Native American Advisory Council was created by Big Brothers Big Sisters in order to assist Native American children to see greater success in school by overcoming adversity. “The Big Brothers Big Sisters Native American Advisory Council is extremely important as we support our affiliates in their work to provide one-to-one staff-supported mentoring services to more rural and urban Native American families and communities,” said Ivy Wright-Bryan, Director of Native American Mentoring for Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Read more about Kristy and Shoshanna at NativeTimes.com.


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