Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Pawtucket 01-13-2021

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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PAWTUCKET EDITION | VALLEY BREEZE | JANUARY 13-19, 2021 PAWTUCKET 5 Though the pandemic has made the process of mentoring more dif- ficult, leaders at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rhode Island say it's more critical than ever for children, espe- cially those who are isolated and experiencing limited opportunities to see friends or go out into the com- munity, to have someone to support them. "We really want to make sure that people know that we are still active and we're matching," Tiana Ochoa, director of mentoring programs at BBBSRI, told The Breeze. "Even though it's virtual, it still has an impact." January marks national mentoring month, and Ochoa said the entire month is dedicated to bringing awareness about the need for and importance of mentoring. Given the start of the new year and with people making resolutions, she said they tend to see an influx of people who want to get involved this month. Since the fall, staff have been enroll- ing new mentors and families, virtu- ally, she noted. Mentors don't need to have any special skills or back- ground. "Anyone who's willing to commit the time to a child can be a mentor," she said, adding that they should also be able to be patient, supportive, and present for their mentee. "Children with mentors have shown increased self-esteem, higher self-confidence, better interpersonal skills, improved relations with friends and family, along with better aca- demic achievement," according to the BBBSRI website. Ochoa said there's a need for more diverse mentors, including mentors of color. Before the pandemic, mentors and mentees, called Bigs and Littles, spent between six to 10 hours togeth- er a month, she noted. While all mentoring since March has turned virtual, BBBSRI staff are working hard to keep everyone engaged and involved, including with virtual events such as bingo and by providing online resources for mentors, she said. "It's not ideal because it's not what they initially signed up for," she said, Though in virtual mode, BBBSRI seeking mentors By MELANIE THIBEAULT Valley Breeze Staff Writer melanie@valleybreeze.com KELLEY SONTAG, of Plainville, Mass., right, and her mentee KHLOE KENERSON, of Woonsocket, have been matched by Big Brothers Big Sisters Rhode Island since June of 2018. See MENTORS, Page 7

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