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Big Brothers, Sisters make a big difference

Courtesy photo/Sierra SunA Big Brother and Little Brother spend time together bowling outside Grass Valley. The nonprofit mentoring organization Big Brothers Big Sisters is making its way to Tahoe-Truckee to serve this area's youths. Mentoring has proven to help children improve self-esteem and even improve academic achievement.
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Stephanie Blume knows firsthand the positive effects a mentor can have on the life of a youth.

Now a director at Sierra Nevada Children’s Services, as a child Blume had a mentor who encouraged her to consider a future that included higher education.

“She really inspired me to start at the community college level. I’m the only one in a family of six to go to college and finish,” Blume said. “I think a mentor made that difference.”



In an effort to provide Tahoe-Truckee youths with the same support she benefited from, Blume and Children’s Services will welcome a mentoring program to the region ” the nationally recognized, nonprofit Big Brothers Big Sisters organization is setting up shop in Truckee.

Executive Director Dena Valin of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Nevada County said no mentoring programs have been active in the region for a few years. But when the organization received a grant from the S.H. Cowell Foundation for $75,000, Valin said the group could afford to lease a space and hire a coordinator to serve the Tahoe-Truckee area.



“There’s actually a lot of research that demonstrates that mentoring reduces juvenile delinquency ” risk-taking behaviors like premature sex, drugs, alcohol, violence,” Valin said.

The organization works to match adult volunteers with children for a professionally supported one-on-one relationship. The mentors support the juvenile’s growth and development through nurturing relationships, often leading to greater self-esteem and scholastic achievement, according to the organization’s mission statement.

“They basically just hang out and spend time together,” Valin said.

Though mentor matches are typically made by gender, Valin works with a young boy who has no female figure in his life. She has spent time with her “Little Brother” for about three years, and mentors him in a site-based program that usually takes place on school grounds.

Valin said mentors have tremendous impacts on the lives of youths, even if the influence is not immediately recognizable.

For example, after not seeing her young friend for an entire summer, Valin said she was nervous about meeting him after class one fall day. But when she came for their meeting, she was overwhelmed by his loving reaction.

“He sees me, screams out my name ” Dena!” Valin recalled. “And he comes running down the hall as fast as he can and jumps into my arms and practically knocks me over. I really didn’t know I had that effect on him.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters will share an office in Truckee with Sierra Nevada Children’s Services, and will have services available as soon as they hire a locally based program manager.


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