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Big Brothers Big Sisters Celebrates Native American Heritage Month With Efforts to Expand Culturally Relevant Mentoring Services

Professional Basketball Star Tahnee Robinson to be Featured in Upcoming PSA Announcement

PHILADELPHIA, PA, November 1, 2011 – Big Brothers Big Sisters celebrates Native American Heritage Month with a new campaign to enroll more youth and volunteers in its unique, culturally relevant mentoring program developed to help Native American/Alaska native children achieve in school and succeed in life. The program includes a new public service announcement (PSA) featuring professional women’s basketball player Tahnee Robinson, who is one of the first Native Americans ever selected in the WNBA draft.

"We are energized by the progress of our local agencies in strengthening relationships in their communities to better serve Native American youth," said Big Brothers Big Sisters of America President and CEO Karen J. Mathis. "We are extremely excited about the passage of a resolution by the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians to support this work. The National Congress of American Indians Youth Commission is reviewing a similar resolution. It is through working closely with families and local communities that we are able to hold ourselves accountable for helping the children we serve overcome adversity to achieve in school; avoid risky and delinquent behaviors and have higher self esteem and aspirations."

With support from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Big Brothers Big Sisters established its Native American Tribal Community Initiative in 2008. The program serves more than 3500 Native American young people, 42 percent of whom are matched with Native American mentors. Continued OJJDP support is bolstering funding in 25 tribal communities and 10 reservations/pueblos across the country, where Native American staff, with the help of advisors and elders, carefully match youth with mentors and provide ongoing support to the adult volunteers, mentees and the children’s families.

"The program is already resulting in measurable positive outcomes, most notably improved attitudes toward antisocial behavior; stronger parental and peer relationships; better school attendance and scholastic competence; and higher educational expectations, social competencies and school attendance," said Big Brothers Big Sisters of America Director of Native American Mentoring, Ivy Wright-Bryan, a member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute tribe in Nevada. "Our local affiliates are engaged with local businesses; educational and vocational training institutions; community non-profit groups; and faith-based institutions that serve Native Americans."

"By providing these specialized mentoring services, Big Brothers Big Sisters is supporting educational and community efforts that help Native American young people develop tribal, national and international leadership skills," Wright-Bryan said. "Ultimately these mentoring services will help improve overall wellness, including the avoidance of substance abuse and suicide."

Starting in January 2012, Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliates serving Native American youth will work with local television stations and social media friends to share the PSA featuring Robinson. Robinson, who grew up on Wind River Reservation in Fort Washakie, Wyoming, is one of the only Native American athletes drafted to the WNBA and is now playing abroad in Israel.

"Mentoring is about putting a child on a path to success and giving kids the power to believe that they can achieve their dreams," said Robinson. "While I was fortunate enough to count my parents as my true mentors, I will always do whatever it takes to make sure kids have the mentorship and tools they deserve, and the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization does that better than anyone."

In addition to the PSA, in January, Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliates will begin placing in local print and web media new advertising to engage more families, volunteers, partners and donor support. Designed by Native American marketing firm G&G, the ads feature Native American/Alaska Native mentors and mentees who are already enrolled in Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mentoring programs.

The U.S. has recognized November has National American Indian Heritage month since 1990 under variations of the name, including Native American Heritage Month and National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month.

About Big Brothers Big Sisters
For more than 100 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has operated under the belief that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed and thrive in life. As the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mission is to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.

Partnering with parents/guardians, schools, corporations and others in the community, Big Brothers Big Sisters carefully pairs children (“Littles”) with screened volunteer mentors (“Bigs”) and monitors and supports them in one-to-one mentoring matches throughout their course. The organization holds itself accountable for children in the program to achieve measurable outcomes, such as higher aspirations; greater confidence and better relationships; educational success; and avoidance of delinquency and other risky behaviors. Most children served by Big Brothers Big Sisters are in single-parent and low-income families or households where a parent is incarcerated. Headquartered in Philadelphia with a network of about 370 agencies across the country, Big Brothers Big Sisters serves nearly 250,000 children. Learn how you can positively impact a child’s life, donate or volunteer at Learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters Native American Mentoring Initiative by visiting Facebook.


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