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Big Brothers Big Sisters is a huge success

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks has completed its first successful year serving middle school students in Monett.

According to site coordinator Patty Bounous, plans are being discussed to enlarge the program to the intermediate school, Central Elementary and Monett Elementary.

"The goal is to build the program," said Bounous. "But the need for mentor volunteers is always needed, especially if we expand."

During the first year of the pilot program, volunteers served 20 middle school students. The students met with their Big Brother or Big Sister each Tuesday during the school year for an hour in the middle school cafeteria. Activities included doing homework, talking, listening, playing board games, listening to speakers and discussing numerous important topics.

"If we expand the program," said Bounus, "we will not only need volunteers but will have to have continued financial assistance. The donations that we received this year helped make this year a success."

Donations were received from Jack Henry and Associates, EFCO Corporation, Barry-Lawrence Area United Fund, The Focus Group, Community National Bank, International Dehydrated Foods, Walmart and James and Kelley Cloud.

Those volunteering their time to the students were: Angie Rinker, John Hagar, Bill Van Eaton, Jerry Hudson, Don Bates, Peggy Downing, Brittany Carver, Joel Chapman, Jaime Rutherford, Charlotte Brady, Jim Haston, Renea Venable, Kyla Harvey, Monica Lay, Amber Hylton, Marti Jones, Kyle David and Douglas Aldridge.

Haston began his volunteering in October with two 13-year-olds, Shawn Maxwell and Francisco Cordero.

"I wanted to work with these kids," said Haston. "I have never really had the opportunity to be able to do that.

"I have learned patience, understanding, and it has been challenging to figure out how the teenage brain works because I had forgotten," Haston added.

The non-profit Big Brothers Big Sisters organization has helped children in southwest Missouri for over 27 years. The program collaborated with Monett R-1 School District to pilot this site-based program for at-risk middle school students.

"I could easily get 100 kids at the middle school," said Bounous. "There is always a need. For example in Springfield, they service 1,400 students beginning with the age of 4.

"I need some college-age volunteers that have some free time," Bonous continued. "We have OTC students in town, Crowder College students and even MSU students. The more volunteers we can get the more students we can help."

Haston will continue to mentor the same students that he had during the first year.

"My goal is to show these kids their potential," said Haston. "I want them to be successful at whatever they do. I don't care if it is digging ditches or if he is president, I want them to be successful and take pride in everything they do and realize that they have a lot of self-worth. I want these kids to know that we love them."

For more information or to volunteer for the program, call Patty Bounous at 235-5456 or e-mail her at pbounous@bigbro.com.

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