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New Solutions to Old Problems

09 September 2008  
A need and a solution. That's what Yavapai Big Brothers and Sisters is all about.


Alexis and Anita
Who: Local, regional, and global foundations leverage their dollars to bring Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters to Prescott Valley’s Lake Valley Elementary School.


What: New solutions to old problems: high poverty rate, high rates of single parent families, etc, often bring a school down- but LVES seeks new innovative solutions. YBBBS seeks 60 mentors for students attending LVES.

Why: Better service to children and improving education, ultimately strengthening the social fabric of our society.

Imagine if you will, wise and affluent people and organizations working together to help charities and schools strengthen the social fabric of our community. It is amazing how much can really be accomplished when the powers of positive change work together to become greater than the sum of their parts. Case in point: Lake Valley Elementary School (LVES) and Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters (YBBBS) partnership funded by The Million Dollar Round Table, JP Morgan Chase, D Miller Charitable Endowment in Memory of Carole Miller, and the Yavapai Community Foundation. These local, national, and global foundations are all combining their efforts (and dollars) to leverage the good work of YBBBS with the good work of LVES to benefit kids and the community in ways that will be felt for generations. Their consortium will help to strengthen a community, by enabling YBBBS to engage 60 Mentors in a school based mentoring program at LVES.

To really understand the magnitude of this activity we must look a little deeper at the primary players, the need, and the intended consequence of their actions. Lake Valley Elementary School has a few challenges; At LVES, 76.7 percent of the students are identified as economically disadvantaged (higher than the District: 51.2 percent and the State: 53.5 percent). At least 30 percent of the 589 (2006 enrollment) children who are enrolled in the LVES live in single parent homes- most of the rest have 2 working parents. In spite of a very hard working single parent, grandparent or foster parent, statistically, their children are twice as likely as other children to get in trouble with the law, use drugs, drop out of school and end up in jail as adults. Right now, these are great kids who don’t even know they are at risk. But right now, they are also being confronted with choices and challenges they are not fully prepared for. In spite of the Herculean efforts of their parent or guardian, many of these children still may never see the future we all would want for them.

ybbs3.jpgIn short, too many kids at LVES are at risk, but together we can change it. The Solution is at hand. Of all the approaches to helping at risk youth, 1 to 1 long term mentoring is the single most effective way to help. The Best. We know that when an at risk youth has a mentor for 18 months, that youth moves from being twice as likely than his or her peers to get in trouble, to being about ½ as likely than average kids to get in trouble- the impact is significant and long lasting. It could be as significant as the choice between graduating from high school - or not. Working to ensure a child has every opportunity to grow to be a responsible, contributing member of society who also teaches these life lessons to their own children is in the best interest of everyone.

In the immediate, a Big Brother or Big Sister in the life of a child can also positively impact the class room- less distraction, more support, and a better focused and behaved child- Now consider the impact on the school and the community if 50-60 children have, in addition to a parent or guardian, a caring responsible adult as a friend and role model. That kind of impact can be a tipping point for the entire school, for the community- and that kind of measurable positive impact is exactly what wise groups like the foundations listed above are investing so much into Prescott Valley’s Lake Valley Elementary school, it’s surrounding community and Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Seymour Petrovsky of the Million Dollar Round Table said “Investing in programs that make a real and measurable positive impact- maximizing the effectiveness of our social investment is our goal. We want to facilitate positive, lasting change; We want to make this an even better place to live and work, and feel this path is the best we could hope for. I was proud to sponsor YBBBS’ grant application!”

The problems Lake Valley Elementary School faces are not unique- the solution is. If by working with many different groups LVES can solve it’s challenges and strengthen a community- then they must seek out the best resources to help. Danny Brown, Principal of LVES, who has ensured LVES utilizes every resource possible to benefit his students says that the “School/ Family partnership is critical to students’ success, and YBBBS serves as an excellent Bridge over any gap that may exist.”

By putting together a program that addresses the needs of the community, and leverages dollars from several groups we can achieve success- in fact we have, states Susan Stewart- Rickelman, VP of Programs at YBBBS. Just look at what has already happened in this one example, in which a caring, responsible adult shared her life in big and small ways with a child in need:

Meet Alexis

Alexis is a wonderful 8 year old. Shy was very shy, and didn’t enjoy trying new activities. She lives with her sisters, Mom and Grandmother in a small home in Prescott Valley. She is in the 3rd grade at Lake Valley Elem. School. Her Mom says her father is not involved in her life, and because of a disability Mom can’t always participate in her children’s activities as much as she would like. Mom feared that Alexis lacked confidence, and that would lead to less opportunities; she was at a loss as to what to do. Once, she remarked to her mother that she wished there was another loving, stable, adult that could help fill gaps. She was drawn to Big Brothers Big Sisters.

After being matched with a Big Sister for a short while, Alexis has already begun to show some very positive change. Alexis’s Big Sister, Anita- who is in her early 50’s, got her involved in swim lessons- the idea was frightening to Alexis. After just a couple lessons, Alexis was swimming like a dolphin. The confidence of that accomplishment led to her learning to ride a bike with out training wheels- another activity she had been avoiding, but accomplished with in the first hour. When she tried to put it off, Her Big Sister explained that “…every one falls- that is normal; what is important is how we get up and try again.”

Now, Alexis has the confidence of Kings. She is very outgoing and compassionate- always helping other students. Confident that her actions will be helpful, she has become a leader among her peers. Her relationship with her family has also improved. Anita and Alexis’ Mom, Jacqui, work in partnership - like sisters. "We both love Alexis, and work together to ensure she has every opportunity possible," they explained. The confidence Anita has instilled in Alexis is incredible and is showing itself in every aspect of her life- she gets along much better in school, is happier at home, and LOVES spending time with Anita. The stable, loving relationship she has developed with Anita will last her whole life.

Jaquie says “I feel privileged to live in a time and place where communities helps families; where there is love enough for every child who needs a bit more.”

Yes, Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters needs more volunteers, and with programs like Lake Valley Elementary School, they have kids who need exactly what you have to offer.

Together, we can change how children grow up in our community. For more information, or to volunteer, please call YBBBS at 928-778-5135.