Rev. Dr. Floyd Flake, pastor of the Cathedral of the Allen AME, and Judy Vredenburgh, president and chief executive officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, announced the partnership during each of the church's three masses.
"We are proud of our mentoring results, but what we've done by bring in the Big Brothers and Big Sisters is to elevate our mentoring programs, " Flake told the congregants at the 11:30 a.m. mass. "We need mentors, not folks who talk about the number of kids off in jail and not in school. We need people to do something about it."
He said U.S. Rep Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) and state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) will be mentors in program, and if the two busy politicians have the time and energy to help kids, everyone in the congregation has the time.
"This is a tremendous partnership between Allen AME and Big Brothers Big Sisters," said Vredenburgh. "Rev. Flake has really gotten behind mentoring, and getting involved dramatically changes the kids' lives."
She said it was the first partnership that her organization has developed with a church. The model should bring more adult mentors into Big Brothers and Big Sisters and serve as the archetype for the rest of the country, she said.
The Allen AME at 110-31 Merrick Blvd. in Jamaica is one of the largest churches in New York City. It was founded in 1834 and serves thousands of people in southeast Queens with outreach ministries that affect the lives of community members.
Big Brothers and Big Sisters of New York City began in 1904 as the first formalized mentoring program in the United States. The organization trains and monitors adults who want to spend six to 10 hours a month with school age children.
A recent study conducted by George Washington University found that 87 percent of the children who participated in Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York showed improved self-esteem, 76 percent stayed out of trouble with the law, 68 percent improved their school attendance and grades, and 67 percent improved their family relationships.
Rodeena Kirton, the program director, said the church's existing mentoring program has about 75 adults and it hopes to bring in another 100 over the course of a year. The existing programs will be shifted to the BBBS's program umbrella.
"A lot of the children in the program will come from the church, but it is not a requirement," she said. "We want to expand the mentoring within the community. We are receiving calls from mothers from the community who need mentoring for their children."
She said the program can make a difference with youth because the mentor provides an outside perspective.
Studies have shown that one-on-one mentoring improves children's attitudes about themselves and school, Kirton said. The effect on the children might not be very obvious in the beginning, but latter in life the benefits will be seen, she said.
"This is a win-win collaboration," Flake said. "Our community wins from the positive influence of mentoring, our youngsters win since their mentors - as dedicated family, career and community members - will provide them with a different perspective on life and a chance to flourish, and these mentors win as they watch their efforts bloom."
©2000 Community News Group
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