The new program director at Big Brothers Big Sisters is looking for volunteers to help mentor local children.

Amy Neinmeyer-Davis has been with Big Brothers Big Sisters for three weeks and is learning the ropes. She received a bachelors degree in education from Indiana University in 2003 and is eager to get started. Neinmeyer-Davis replaced Kim Herbert, who previously served as program director.

“I’m being gradually introduced to the programs, but I’m anxious to learn more,” Neinmeyer-Davis said.

“Everyone has been very helpful.”

Executive director Bev Karazsia is excited to have Neinmeyer-Davis on board.

“She brings a lot of new ideas and vitality to the program,” Karazsia said. “She can take us in a new direction.”

The first program Neinmeyer-Davis became familiar with was the Achievement Involving Mentors project, which matches students with a positive role model. The adults visit the students once a week during lunch and talk about school, discuss problems at home or just chit-chat. Currently, there are 35 kids on the waiting list who need a mentor to work with them.

“It gives them the extra one-on-one attention they don’t get in school or at home,” Neinmeyer-Davis said. “It’s the highlight of the week for them.”

Anyone interested in participating should fill out an application and then submit to a background check.

“The kids just want a hug,” Karazsia said. “It’s only for a half-hour a week.”

The next step is to implement the Fourth Street/Vista Village after-school program that focuses on tutoring students. Neinmeyer-Davis will drive an RV to meet with families and help their children on school work. The program doesn’t have any open slots for volunteers, but it should be launched by the end of the month.

“Kids need the extra support,” Neinmeyer-Davis said.

Soon, administrators will start promoting the core community program, which matches students with adults after school. The mentors can take the kids to the park, a sports game, the movies or out to diner. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old and fill out an application. They must also submit to a background check and complete an interview with a case manager.

“We’re always looking for people who want to make a difference,” Karazsia said.

There are also programs for married couples and high school students who want to participate.

“It’s rewarding because you know you helped change a life,” Karazsia said.

Neinmeyer-Davis said it’s fun to be a kid again and give the children new experiences. In fact, one volunteer took her student to the Fall festival parade because she had never seen one before.

“It’s very gratifying,” Neinmeyer-Davis said.

But, the pressing issue is the long lists of children who don’t have any mentors.

“We always need volunteers,” Karazsia said. “There are so many kids who need that special friend.”

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