Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

October 30, 2012

A little match with a big impact

Carrie Stambaugh
The Independent

CATLETTSBURG — Visit Catlettsburg Elementary on any given day and you might find some “Big” kids there in addition to all the students.

Earlier this month, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Tri-State matched 11 new “Bigs” — all Marathon Refinery employees — with student “Littles” through the agency’s school-based mentoring program.

The Bigs spend one hour each week at school with their Little, studying and playing, but also building a friendship that will help the student excel later in life.

“It’s been great for us,” said Catlettsburg Elementary Principal Marci Prater, noting BBBS has worked with the school for more than a decade to provide adult mentors to its students.

 “Just to see the smiles on the kids faces, and to know they have someone outside the family and the school to rely on is very important,” she said. “It is a self-esteem builder. It is crucial to a child’s success to know someone is interested in their education,” said Prater.

Kenny Hatten, 40, of Huntington, is a maintenance controller at Marathon and was recently matched with second-grader Kane Albertson, 8. The pair share a love for football and sports and are already enjoying their time together, said Hatten.

“He has a very vibrant spirit,” said Hatten of Albertson. “I think, with the right mentoring, and somebody guiding him between right and wrong, he could be very successful some day.”

Hatten, who has taught Sunday school at Christ Temple Church in Huntington for the last five years, learned about BBBS from an in-house email and was instantly interested in volunteering.

 “It was just like an answer to my prayers,” said Hatten, who explains, “My whole mission in life is to try to better the life of underprivileged kids — mentoring, feeding, teaching them.”

Too often, Hatten said, children “don’t get a fair shake because of the bad decisions of their parents.”

Katie Scherer, 27, an human resources consultant with Marathon, is another recently matched Big, whose been paired with third-grader Taylor.

“I’m really enjoying it,” said Scherer. “I’m learning just as much from her as she is from me. It’s a reciprocal relationship. You get as much out of it as you put into it.”

Taylor, she said, “is motivated and does well in school. Hopefully, I can help keep that momentum up for her.”

Both Hatten and Scherer said they would encourage other Marathon employees to volunteer to mentor a student as well as other businesses to partner with BBBS to do the same.

“It will only benefit the companies in the longterm because the positive impact they have not only on kids lives but on future employees,” said Hatten.

The matching of so many students from Catlettsburg with Marathon employees has been a “wonderful” experience, said BBBS case manager Lee McCloud. The agency is always looking for more corporate involvement for the school-based mentoring program and is willing to work with any school to place Bigs there.

“It is a great benefit for the company. It gives volunteers a chance to get out of the office and get inspired,” said McCloud.  

Marathon communications representative Sheila Fraley said the company has long supported Big Brothers Big Sisters but had a desire to do more one-on-one work with the children BBBS serves.

“We were just talking about ways we might get involved more, and we decided school-based mentoring would be the best place to start,” she said.

Fraley said she expects to see employee involvement grow, based on early reactions from new Bigs.

“Other people that they work with have come in and said, ‘I think I might want to do this. too.’ I think it is going to build from there,” she said.

For more information about Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Tri-State, call Lee McCloud at (606) 329-8799.

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.