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Why The Friends Program of Kearney?

What We Do

Why The Friends Program?

The Friends Program of Kearney has been supporting and changing children’s lives through positive one-on-one role modeling for nearly 45 years.  Since the program inception in 1978, the program has impacted more than 3,500 children.

One-on-one matches can be a driving force behind making an impact on a child.  Some these impacts include:

Social and communication skills. As indicated in research, Little Friend matched with mentors show improved:

  • Healthier relationships and lifestyle choices
  • Better attitude about school
  • Higher college enrollment rates and higher educational aspirations
  • Enhanced self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Improved behavior, both at home and at school
  • Confidence, self-esteem and a sense of hope
  • Academic grades
  • School attendance
  • Interactions with peer, parents, and teachers
  • More likely to finish high school and less likely to be involved in criminal activities
  • Increased high school graduation rates
  • Lower high school dropout rates
  • Stronger relationships with parents, teachers, and peers
  • Improved interpersonal skills
  • Decreased likelihood of initiating drug and alcohol use (MENTOR, 2009; Cavell, DuBois, Karcher, Keller, & Rhodes, 2009) 

Children with an adult mentor compared to children without one are:

  • 46% less likely to use drugs
  • 27% less likely to use alcohol
  • 52% less likely to skip school
  • 33% less likely to use violence

The importance and benefits extend to the Big Friends, as well. Some of the benefits include:

  • Increased self-esteem
  • A sense of accomplishment
  • Creation of networks of volunteers
  • Insight into childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood
  • Increased patience and improved supervisory skills (U.S. Department of Labor, 2022.)

Youth Government. (2022). Benefits of Mentoring for Young People.

Many of Big Friends 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.

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, learning right from wrong, to think before they act out, and to be kind to everyone. We love hearing the success stories and seeing the mentoring relationships impact.


“On the days I see my Big Friend, I am really happy all day because I know at the end of the school day I will get to see my Big Friend.”

- Little Friend

“I had tons of fun with my big friend, especially when we went to the parks and played on the jungle gyms and swings.  He also taught me how to play chess.  I had so much great great fun that I wish we would never have to stop seeing each other!”

- Little Friend

“The experience I gained while volunteering with the Friends Program, is something you can’t get in a classroom.  I have gained a lifelong friend!”

Britney - Big Friend

“Being a Big Friend has made me realize how fortunate I was growing up with my home life and all the things and opportunities I was given. Seeing that other kids don’t have the same opportunities makes me want to reach out to them even more. I have also learned that quality time is very important. Gifts or other material things cannot replace the time spent with a child.”

Kimberly - Big Friend