“The only limit on the number of youth able to be mentored is the number of adults willing to share a small amount of their time,” says Stacey Watson-Mesley, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of St Lucie, Indian River and Okeechobee Counties (BBBS).
The agency ignites, inspires and defends the power and potential of youth through one-to-one mentoring programs. “1700 children are mentored through us, but with The Big Mission, there could be so many more,” she says.
Last year, 96% of BBBS mentored students showed significant improvement in academic performance. After a year of development, The Big Mission is ready to launch. The program will partner with parents and guardians who have requested a men-tor for their child and pair them with mentors who are veterans, law enforcement and first responders. “It is a classic symbiotic relationship for each group and helps to promote under-standing and tolerance. As a community, we are only as strong as the ties that bind us” said Indian River Impact 100 president Gladys LaForge.
U.S. Army veteran and the new BBBS “Mission Support Specialist” Ryan Meeks said, “It means so much to be able to give back in this particular moment to both children and the veteran, law enforcement and first responder communities who do so much for all of us. I look forward to being a part of the healing process bringing together our youth and local heroes for positive outcomes.”
“Veterans have a tendency to sup-port missions that support children. We recognize that they are our future and will do what we can do to help them understand the past and prepare for what-ever they may encounter in their lives,” stated Vic Diaz of the Vietnam Veterans of Indian River County, who served on the MSS interview panel.
Yessika Cortes of Fellsmere is the mother of Aurelio who has been mentored by Marine and Fellsmere Police Chief Keith Touchberry since 2018. She said, “I am so grateful that my son was matched with Chief Touchberry. Having the chief of police and a veteran as my child’s mentor has been of great help. Aurelio looks up to chief and has mentioned he wants to be like him. I couldn’t ask for a better role model.”
Watson-Mesley said, “We believe focusing on supporting our children’s success and our heroes’ strengths speaks volumes about the character of our community.”
Original article appeared in Indian River County Luminaries, June 29th, 2020.