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Mentor you, mentor me
Brian Yengoyan has a challenge for you.
There's no prize in it, really, save for some deep personal satisfaction, and everybody wins, so it's not that kind of challenge, either. Plus, it's not always easy. You've got to step out of your comfort zone.
“This isn't providing food for someone on Thanksgiving,” says Yengoyan, a 28-year old real-estate consultant. “This is getting involved in a person's life.”
But being a big brother is totally worth it.
national mentoring month, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central California is always in need of volunteers, so it seems like the perfect time to throw the gauntlet down.
“Many people have the misconception that you have to be perfect to be a mentor,” says Shauna Goodman, the organization's fund development officer. “But really you just have to care enough to spend a little bit of your time being yourself and having fun with a kid.”
Yengoyan was recruited as a volunteer two years ago, and jumped right in. He's like that. But the experience with his little brother Sheymour, it's changed him.
This is more than just “hanging out,” though he and his little — they call them littles — do a lot of that.
They go out to eat. The kid loves to eat.
They see a lot of movies and take trips — they went to Disneyland, where they rode Thunder Mountain Railroad 15 times in a row, because that's what kids like to do. They spend time doing schoolwork, too. Even though Sheymour is in fifth grade, Yengoyan is planting that college seed early.
“That's kind of our goal, is to get him to college.”
But just taking Sheymour out into other social settings — into different neighborhoods — is important, Yengoyan says.
Make no mistake. This is important stuff.
“Fresno has a high school dropout rate of 31% and 30% of our children are living in poverty,” Goodman says. “We have to act now with our youth to help them reach their full potential and break these cyclical behaviors. Our vision is that every child who wants and needs a mentor in Central California is able to have one and to do that we need caring adults to invest their time and/or resources to ensure that this goal is accomplished.”
No one gets where they are going alone. OK, someone like Bill Gates is sickeningly smart and that helps, but how many Bill Gateses could there be if every child could spend 10 hours a day on a time-share computer?
And Sheymour isn't unlike most kids, Yengoyan says. He's pure in that way kids are. He has aspirations to be a teacher. He says weird, random kid stuff.
"He's funny,” Yengoyan says, his mouth moving into a wide smile like he's remembering something right now.
Of course, the kid also moves from house to house a lot and is pretty unphased by stuff like people being arrested in front of him.
It's the sort of thing Yengoyan didn't think much about before becoming a big brother, because his own life hasn't been that bad.
It could be worse.
Which is what this is about, right?
“When you actually see worse, you begin to realize you're pretty damn lucky,” he says.
So, we're back to you and that challenge. Even if you don't feel like you can be a mentor — and there are challenges in it — Big Brothers Big Sisters is an organization you should look into, Yengoyan says. There are others ways to help. Go to www.bigs.org/otherwaystohelp.htm for suggestions.
“The world is bigger than yourself. So be a part of it.”
National Mentoring Month
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central California
905 Fulton St.
877-343-7812, (559) 268-2447