Mentoring organization focusing on uplifting, empowering youth

Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 5:45 PM EST
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There’s something special about a community coming together and supporting one another. WFLX has seen that in Fort Pierce this week after a fun family event came to a chaotic halt.

The shooting has also shown which groups are really working to help curb violence and be there for young people when they need the most support.

The headlines of a shooting can cloud the perception of a city, but there are so many positive things happening in Fort Pierce.

Part of that is mentoring youth in the community and some groups are doing that really well but they need more help.

Debbie Hawley is the chief executive officer for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of St. Lucie, Indian River and Okeechobee counties.

The program matches children with a mentor they can look up to.

She agreed after the Fort Pierce shooting on Monday, parents are left wondering what more than they can do to keep their children safe.

“You do everything right, and there’s still, sadly, that window that somebody that doesn’t have the best intentions in mind and make it a tragedy,” she said.

But there’s hope in success stories on the Treasure Coast and Okeechobee County.

“She loved having a mentor, she loved having someone to help her read, she loved having someone to help her sew,” Samantha Simnett said.

Simnett said during the pandemic, her daughter was learning online and needed extra help.

“It’s one-on-one and they can really get the attention that they need from the mentor,” she said.

Each child, from kindergarten to high school, is matched with a mentor with similar hobbies and personalities.

The success rate, measured by attendance in school, grades and behavior, is 95%.

“Our real need now is male mentors,” she said. “These little guys need positive male influences in their life and we’re having a difficult time recruiting and then retaining.”

Right now there are seven boys waiting to be matched with a big brother. And other groups are also stepping in where they can.

Fort Pierce police posted on Facebook Tuesday showing their weekly event with children at First Step Park as a way to mentor and positively engage with local kids.

“The reward, you may not see it or feel it today but in the future you will,” she said.

January is National Mentoring Month.

If you would like to become a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters, click here.

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