In 2017, Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Santa Barbara County will celebrate its 30th year of providing life-changing mentoring friendships for our community’s struggling youth. January is National Mentoring Month and currently over 80 at-risk children in Santa Barbara County are waiting for life-changing mentors.

National Mentoring Month offers the opportunity to bring awareness to the needs of vulnerable youth who are seeking the guidance of an adult mentor. To do so, BBBS is launching a special 30-30-30 Start Something Big fundraising campaign to get 30 sponsors and 30 volunteers to celebrate its 30th year. Community members can Start Something™ BIG in our community by volunteering or donating at www.sbbigs.org .

More than 6,000 youth in Santa Barbara County are living in poverty. They are at risk for school dropout, gang violence and drug abuse. BBBS, a program of Family Service Agency, responds to the urgent needs of the community’s at-risk youth by offering powerful adult mentoring relationships for youth ages 6 to 18.

According to BBBS Program Manager Sarah Rudd, “Most of these children never really have the kind of adult guidance, mentoring and nurturing that gives them the sense their lives could be better.”

Since opening their doors in 1987, BBBS of Santa Barbara County has provided more than 1,900 youth with caring, consistent mentors. Little Sister Andrea, has been matched with Big Sister Sandy of Lompoc for nearly four years and is excited to graduate from high school in May. She hopes to go to college for animal science and credits her Big Sister for helping her pursue her interest in animals and music. The pair has volunteered at animal shelters locally and across the nation during their travels together.

Andrea says, “I love my Big Sister. She is always there for me. She includes me in her many volunteer projects.”

Under the guidance of volunteer Big Brothers and Big Sisters, youth are more likely than their peers to do better in school and have aspirations for college and career; they’re better equipped to make safe, responsible decisions; and they’re more likely to be productive and engaged citizens—all key factors in building stronger children and prosperous communities. Ongoing match support for volunteers, children and their families helps mentoring matches last long and remain strong, but it costs nearly $1,500 per year to support each match.

Last year, community support for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program helped improve the lives of 221 children throughout the county—all facing adversity, many from single- or low-income homes or with incarcerated parents. Seventy-five percent of participating youth improved academic performance, 96% made better decisions and 95% achieved a stronger sense of self-confidence.

For more information, please visit www.sbbigs.org or call (805) 925-1100.