Concerned about the community’s youth, Laster Boggs came to a realization. Instead of complaining about troubled children, he should take some responsibility in directing them to the right path.
“I thought, ‘Why complain if I don’t do something about it? Why make excuses? I better do something,” said Boggs.
After hearing a presentation about Big Brothers Big Sisters, the southern Kosciusko small farm owner and Quikrete representative got involved with the local program. He has been mentoring Gilbert, a local middle schooler, for the last three years.
“Big Brothers Big Sisters is different than other youth mentoring organizations. Our intentional enrollment and matching procedures mean ‘Bigs’ and ‘Littles’ are more likely to find common ground to form a close relationship, one that will endure and shape a child’s life for the better,” explained Trina Hoy, community development director for Kosciusko County’s BBBS.
“Although common ground can be difficult to find at first, matches like Laster and Gilbert prove true bonds of friendship begin to form with a little bit of time and thought.”
Starting their relationship through the BBBS School Buddies program, Boggs first felt the time he spent with Gilbert was unproductive. Gilbert was shy and unresponsive. Nevertheless, Boggs continued to visit Gilbert. Six months later, his consistency paid off.
Before leaving for vacation in Florida, Boggs asked the reserved Gilbert if he could bring him back any souvenirs. Gilbert asked for a shark’s tooth.
“I went everywhere and couldn’t find a shark’s tooth,” said Boggs. “But on the very last day, I found a small shark preserved in a jar at a souvenir sharp. Gilbert’s eyes doubled in size as he unwrapped the jar. He took it all over school to show his friends. That was the moment I finally felt like I had broken through to him and our relationship has changed so much.”
Boggs and Gilbert now meet a few times per month outside of school. They go to movies, laser tag or horseback riding, and Boggs has also taken Gilbert to work or even had him help out on the farm.
“I think a misconception is you have to create a King’s Island for these kids. That’s not true. You only have to include them in real life with you,” explained Boggs. “You can do those fun things, but it’s just as well to talk to them about grades, parents, school. You just need to be a listening ear. That’s what these kids need.”
BBBS has volunteer opportunities for one hour per week through the Lunch Buddies program, as well as a community based program once per month. Husband and wife duos can also mentor a child together.
“Our biggest natural resource is our youth. Not having time is not an excuse. We need to change the perception that adults don’t have time for kids,” said Boggs, who has two grown sons and four grandchildren.
Boggs says men are especially needed as BBBS mentors. Currently, there are significantly more boys on a waiting list for a mentor over girls.
“Unfortunately it’s harder to get men involved,” said Boggs “I try to explain if you like to fish, take a Little fishing. If you like to play golf, there’s a Little who does too. If you like to turn wrenches in a car, there’s a Little with that interest, too.
“If you’re like me and think the youth are a lost cause, do something about it. I’ve seen the difference mentors can make in our community’s youth time and time again,” said Boggs. “That child could be the next president or mayor of your town. It could be your connection that becomes a changing point in their life.”
For more information about Kosciusko County’s BBBS, go to www.bbbsnei.org or call 260-456-1600