Big Brothers Big Sisters SW La. brings MentorU to Calcasieu Parish

Rita LeBleu

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Louisiana helps an average of 150 area youth realize their potential, annually. Executive Director Erin Davison said the nonprofit is stepping up those efforts in the fall through the MentorU initiatives.

Davison said Southwest Louisiana’s pandemic, hurricanes and ice storm impacted area youth in ways that are only recently coming to light — economically, educationally and behaviorally.

“I am excited to bring MentorU to Calcasieu Parish and provide this structured mentoring program,” Davison said.

MentorU facilitates curriculum-based group and/or one-on-one monthly mentoring sessions. The setting won’t be a typical classroom environment because not all youth respond to such settings.

“MentorU will work in conjunction with Big Brothers Big Sisters one-to-one community mentoring program that we’ve had for over 119 years,” Davison said.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is recruiting 20 women and 20 men to volunteer for MentorU, which will serve 20 girls and 20 boys, ages 12-15. Next year, the program will be expanded to older youth. MentorU was developed to keep youth on track for academic success, positive behavior support, lessen risk factors for juvenile delinquency and promote healthy positive connections and emotional integrity.

“Volunteers will receive full support of our staff,” Davison said. “Along with our program partners, Volunteer Mentors and Parent/Guardians, we will provide a safe space for educational success, positive emotional growth, career exploration, STEM activities, and of course, fun.”   

Youth engaged in Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring are less likely to use drugs and alcohol or skip school. Mentors may help at-risk youth to develop a plan to realize their potential, according to Davison.

Shannon LaFargue of the Calcasieu Parish School Board introduced the audience to the term he prefers in place of “at-risk.”           

“I call them cope-ers” he said, “Children Of Promise and Education,” he said, “and they will be with the alignment of all the agencies involved and the support mechanisms in place with these mentorships.”

Program partners gave a total of $145,00 to fund the first year of MentorU. In addition to Calcasieu Parish School Board, other program partners are Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office, Calcasieu Parish District Attorney’s Office, City of Lake Charles, Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, Cheniere Energy, Business Partner and Big Brothers Big Sisters Southwest Louisiana.

Kimberly Dellafosse, city of Lake Charles, agreed these are challenging times for youth, but because of organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters, she remains hopeful.

MentorU reveals this community’s desire to protect, nurture and develop our young people,” Dellafosse said.  

“When Erin presented the plan, we looked at the number of youth that would be directly impacted,” said Stephen Dwight, Calcasieu Parish District Attorney. That’s what our youth need. That’s what our community needs”

MentorU volunteers must have lived in SWLA for a minimum of one year and commit to a once a month mentoring session and one-to-one mentoring activities twice per month for 12 months. Volunteers must be at least 18. Driving record and references will be checked. 

For more information, call 478-5437.

””

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Louisiana executive director Erin Davison and Stephen Dwight, Calcasieu district attorney.

Special to the American Press

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