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January marks the annual celebration of Mentoring Month, a time to recognize and appreciate the critical role mentorship plays in personal and professional development.

Big Brothers Big Sisters has been making a positive impact on the lives of young people for over 100 years. The organization matches children, also known as littles with adult mentors, or bigs who provide guidance and support. The goal is to help littles reach their full potential and succeed in their personal and academic lives.

Lynette Harbin is the executive director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Nodaway County as well as a mentor. She has been with the organization since 2008 and started off on the Board of Directors.

“We are a mentoring organization.” Harbin said “We match children from a single parent or nontraditional home with an adult mentor, who spends a couple hours each week with the kid doing normal everyday type activities.”

Mentoring Month is a national celebration, mentors come from many forms and environments. They are special people that have great leadership, communication skills and empathy for younger adults. 

“For us, as a mentoring organization, we use this month to really celebrate our mentors,” Harbin said. “We try to make sure they understand how thankful we are for them. They are giving up their time for a child, and we want them to know we appreciate that.”

Many mentors aren’t aware of National Mentoring Month, and BBBS made sure this month they were rewarded for their hard work. Harbin was able to give all the mentors in town a $10 Amazon gift card. 

When becoming a mentor, people have to go through a rigorous process. BBBS requires a house check and many background checks to ensure the safety of the children. When the volunteers are approved, they start the process of finding a little. After finding their matches, mentors will spend one-on-one time with their littles doing a variety of fun activities. The BBBS office also offers free games and activities . 

“They mentor because they want to make a difference in a child's life,” Harbin said. “Every child has potential, and mentors are there to help them see that potential.”

Devin Rankin is the secretary at St. Gregory Barbarigo Catholic Church and has been a mentor with BBBS for three years. She knew Harbin from the church, Harbin recommended Rankin to become a mentor and Rankin decided to take on the position. 

“I’m not a parent to a 17-year-old girl, but I learned a lot about things they go through, hard times and good times,” Rankin said. “I’ve tried my best to learn how to talk to her about things and learn how to validate her feelings.”

Rankin’s little was 15 when she first started, and since then it’s gotten more difficult to spend lots of time together as she grows up and her schedule becomes busier. Despite this, they try to hang out as much as they can by going to Starbucks and catching up. 

“Being involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters means a lot to me. It's a really cool thing to be trusted with someone else's child and be able to shape her development alongside with her mom,” Rankin said. “I feel like what we do together makes a difference for her and to me.” 

The one-on-one mentor relationships that Big Brothers Big Sisters have built have helped thousands of kids across the United States see their potential and given them a better future. In January they are recognized for their abilities to inspire and lead kids for many years. These aren’t short term relationships, they are long lasting relationships with great impact. 

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