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Big Brothers Big Sisters will be a winning wager

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By Jeff Moore

Lots of folks will be playing the odds this week as all eyes are focused on the state for the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby.

Everyone wants to pick a winner, but I've never thought the odds of doing that are very good. With 20 horses in the race, we know only one will walk  away with the roses.

What if you had the chance to wager on something that had odds where eight to 10 of those 20 participating come away a winner?

It sounds interesting, doesn't it? Even better, it can have a lasting, long-term impact on our community.

A group of local residents is working to bring a Big Brothers Big Sisters program to Carroll County. The reason is simple. It will improve the odds that our youth can reach their potential, and all it takes is the involvement of volunteer mentors.

This can make a dramatic difference in the lives of our youth in as little as 18 months.

A study completed during the 1990s points to why we need a Big Brothers Big Sisters program here.

This study, performed by  Philadelphia-based Public Private Ventures, followed 959 boys and girls ages 10-16 in eight cities and came away with these results:

  • 46 percent are less likely to begin using illegal drugs.
  • 27 percent are less likely to begin using alcohol.
  • 52 percent are less likely to skip school.
  • 37 percent are less likely to skip a class.
  • The boys and girls are more confident of their performance in schoolwork.
  • They are one-third less likely to hit someone.
  • "Littles" — youth in the program — get along better with their families.

And the effects go well beyond these numbers on alcohol and substance abuse prevention.

"For every 100 youth between ages 10 and 16 who start using drugs, the study found, only 54 similar youth who are matched with a 'Big' will start using drugs," according to the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. “Minority boys and girls were the most strongly influenced; they were 70 percent less likely than their peers to initiate drug use.”

Locally, we have seen the stories in The News-Democrat on our community's problems with drug and alcohol abuse. There is no doubt this has a negative impact on our youth.

Some young people are using or abusing drugs and alcohol. Others may be living in a household where a parent or guardian is. In these situations, kids may lack strong role models who see the need for them to work hard in school. They are not encouraged to study and complete their homework.

These boys and girls may not even consider the possibility that they can go to college because no one in their family has completed their education.

Just a few hours a week with a mentor can change this.

Big Brothers Big Sisters has found that having an adult who shares a pizza, goes fishing, shoots a few baskets or hikes a trail can change a young person’s life.

You can help make a difference in the future of a boy or girl in our community. Learn how by attending a meeting on organizing a Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Carroll County.

The meeting, organized by the Rev. Chris White, Carroll County Schools Superintendent Lisa James and Ron Gillespie, is set for Monday, May 4 at 6 p.m. at the Carroll County Extension Office on Floyd Drive.

Now it is time for Carroll County to step up and place its wager on our youth. This is one bet that will end where everyone is a winner.

Jeff Moore is publisher of The News-Democrat and The Trimble Banner and resides in Carrollton, Ky.