There are so many messages in the movies, in television, and in video games that say the way to solve a problem is to fight. The way to have control over life and over others is to beat, punch and push. But 17-year-old Steven from Los Angeles learned a better way. Although at first, his quick reaction was to hit when he got angry, he eventually discovered that working with others and not against them helped him get further along. And he learned that through his mentor, John.
One afternoon when Steven was in art school, a student leaned over and said that he was doing it wrong. He pushed the other boy away but when that student said that he was doing it wrong a second time, Steven punched him in the nose. His teacher sent him to the principal’s office, but instead of going there, he walked home.
When his mother asked why he was home so early, he explained what happened. She began to get teary and said that she wished he had a male role model to show him a better way to get along with others, someone who could teach him how to be a man. She knew her son needed someone to look up to and be a role model for him.
The next day, she arranged an appointment with the Los Angeles Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Soon, Steven was meeting with a mentor named John every Saturday. When they first got together, they focused on having fun and getting to know one another. After awhile, John began to ask him how he was doing in school, and with Steven’s nonchalant shrug, John responded that if he did better in school, his life might work better for him. After many weeks and months of getting together, John continued to say that doing well in school would help teachers like him. He also said that working with others instead of against them would help him succeed in life.
Although that didn’t really stick in Steven’s mind at first, that piece of advice showed up when he was in the middle of a heated argument with a student in school one day. Again, Steven was in a situation where he was completing a task in one of his classes when another student said he was doing it wrong. He could feel the intense urge to punch him, and as it grew and grew inside, he suddenly heard what John said – work with others and not against them. Although Steven felt the urge, he didn’t act on it. Instead, he actually let that other student help him. When that happened, Steven realized that he was learning how to manage his emotions. He was learning how to behave more like an adult.
Today, Steven is a very successful student who no longer gets in trouble for fighting or teen bullying at school. And it is because of the successful Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) mentoring program. Their program has been able to curb the effect of many social problems, including teen bullying,
In fact, the mentoring program has had a large impact on the education of teens in general. In a landmark study done by Public Private Ventures throughout 1992 and 1993, results revealed that those who had mentors skipped half as many days of school, felt more competent about doing schoolwork, and skipped fewer classes. Also, students who had mentors in their program said that working hard in school was important to them, going to school and getting a good education was also important to them, and graduating from college was important. Lastly, those who are alumni of their program report that they are doing better in school because of their mentor, have reached a higher level of education than they thought was possible, and that the mentoring program kept them from dropping out of high school.
It is clear that BBBS and their programs are having a positive influence on teens. Although teen bullying is a problem in many communities, there are many resources for adolescents to learn how to curb their anger. Having a mentor who can teach them healthier coping mechanisms is a successful way to do this.
By Robert Hunt
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