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The Miami Herald — Big Brothers/Big Sisters

big brother

I have been matched with my Little Brother Shamain for a year and a half. It has been one of the most worthwhile, yet challenging experiences, of my life When we first met I asked him what he wanted to be when he got older, He answered: "a police officer." I knew that he would either end up in the front or the back seat of the police car. From that day on I was committed to keeping him in the front seat.

We have been rollerblading and ice skating. We have gone to sporting events, court, the circus, etc. Shamain can always count on a weekly dose of lectures including, but not limited to, the importance of getting good grades and having solid values. I have seen a significant growth in him physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I, too, have learned a great deal. I get to relive my childhood as I share some of my experiences with him. The Herald has more than adequately documented the problems with juvenile delinquency in Dade County.

Homicide is the leading cause of death among African-American males ages 15 to 24. Thirty-five percent of the nation's students identify fighting gangs in their schools and describe gang activity as getting worse. Experts believe that the cause for this social epidemic may be the lack of parental supervision and role models, a high dropout rate, and the increased availability of drugs and handguns.

One solution, implemented nationwide, is the mentoring program of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America. Based on a recent public-private study, mentored youths were 46 percent less likely to begin using drugs, 27 percent less likely to begin alcohol use, and 52 percent less likely to skip school.

Unfortunately, the local waiting list for mentors is in the hundreds. Our community's children need more adult mentors. The time commitment is not overwhelming. A couple of visits a month can make a huge difference. The rewards will be tremendous and gained by everyone involved.

To learn more, call Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Greater Miami at (305) 644-0066, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday.