The Friends Program of Kearney has been helping to change children’s lives through positive one-on-one role modeling for over 30 years. Since its inception in 1978, the program has impacted more than 2,500 children.
According to an independent study completed by Public/Private Ventures, one-on-one matches are a driving force behind making an impact on a child. The Search Institute also publishes information that supports the importance of children having adults, outside the family unit, who care about them.
Researchers have found that after spending 18 months with an adult mentor, compared to those children who have not, children were:
- 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs
- 27% less likely to begin using alcohol
- 52% less likely to skip school
- 33% less likely to hit someone
This research also found that children were more confident of their performance in schoolwork and getting along better with other family members.
The Friends Program of Kearney discourages the spending of money while Big and Little Friends are together and encourages the focus to be on spending quality time together doing activities such as, playing sports, going to the park or the YMCA, reading a book or magazine, going to the Children’s Museum or library, playing a board game, or getting a snack and just talking or taking a walk. Many times the Little Friends just need someone to take time to listen to them.
The Friends Program currently serves children in each of the Kearney elementary schools, along with several rural schools, which include Ravenna, Pleasanton, Sumner-Eddyville-Miller (SEM), and Elm Creek.
Based on annual evaluations completed by the Friends Program participants and school guidance counselors, The Friends Program has had reported successes such as, the Big Friend being the most influential person in the child’s life, improved grades, reduced anger and the ability to socialize better with other children at school. More specifically, some of the Little Friends reported that they learned how to swim, play basketball, draw like an artist, how to throw a football on the run, right from wrong, to think before they act out, and to be nice to everyone.
Many of the adult mentors in the Friends Program attend the University of Nebraska-Kearney. They too have reported benefits from their participation in the Friends Program. Some of these benefits included, reinforcing the need to make good choices, being grateful for the skills and support that they received as a child, and gaining valuable skills about interacting with children and communicating with other adults, which will help in their future careers.