BY TOM BUSSELBERG
BOUNTIFUL– Tyler “lost” his dad when he was 7.
The father was abusive and the boy’s mom, Pam, divorced the man and moved out of state, severing ties.
After his arrival in Utan, Tyler had trouble focusing on his schoolwork, was placed in resource classes, and ended up in a fight after school. He was suspended and forced to compete the final two months of school at home.
“Tyler was old enough to see his dad go down,” his mom said. “I didn’t want my children to have that as their lifestyle.” They’d see their dad only about once every two years.
Enter Freddie Johnson, a tall, good-looking, athletic man in his mid-twenties.
Johnson, a mentor arranged through the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program, shared many interests with the boy, from bowling to volleyball to ice hockey.
Johnson has helped Tyler make many positive choices and changes in his life.
That’s the goal of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, which is assisting boys and girls throughout Davis County.
“What we need are adult big brothers and big sisters,” said Michele Beckstrand, Davis County program coordinator.
Such mentors typically meet with their little brother/sister a few times a month and do things with them in the community.
South Davis was a focus of recruitment, both for those needing a mentor and for mentors, said Clarissa Stebbing, Northern Region coordinator.
“One of the biggest misconceptions in parents’ or communities’ minds is my kid is not in trouble with the law, not in danger of doing this or that, so why do they need it? The reality is any child can benefit from having a mentor in their lives.”
It could mean a child is shy and needs more self-confidence, or just someone to talk to and befriend beyond their parents, even in two-parent households, she said.
About 40 youths are signed up for mentorship but there is room for many more.
School-based mentoring is also offered in North Davis at Lincoln and Wasatch Elementaries. There is also a militarydependents’-focused program at Hill Field Elementary.
“Even for parents who are not being deployed, there is still quite a bit of training and temporary duty where a parent might be gone from home two-three months,” Beckstrand said.
Mentors for the school-based program meet at the school one hour a week to work on homework or something else academic. They also participate in a fun activity at that time, whether it’s an art project or shooting some baskets, she said.
High school students are helping with the after-school program.
Mentors go through an extensive interview, and adult mentors complete background and reference checks. They also must complete training and are assigned to a support specialist.
The program has donation drop boxes where old, unwanted items can be left, or pickup from a home can be arranged.
For more information on donating or to locate donation boxes near you, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The Utah website is bbbsu.org or call Dan Metheson at 801-313-0303, Ext. 119.