How to become an undercover kid: mentoring |

How to become an undercover kid: mentoring

Jarid Shipley
Appeal Staff Writer

Ann Mastrodonato believes in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Even though she works for the organization, she is completing the process to become a big sister herself.

“The need is so high for these kids to get the positive attention they need,” said Mastrodonato, the service delivery specialist at the Carson City office of Big Brothers Big Sisters that opened its doors in October.

The organization will initially focus on providing mentors to children of incarcerated parents. The goal for the first year is to match 50 children with mentors. There are currently 20,000 children with at least one parent in prison in Nevada.

“These children are at the highest risk and are more likely to follow their parent to prison. They are 70 percent more likely to go if one parent is incarcerated and 90 percent more likely if both are,” said Pat Fling, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern Nevada.

Fling said the overall goal is to provide services to all eligible children throughout Northern Nevada, but that must be done slowly.

“We eventually want to be all over Northern Nevada, but we need to do it one step at a time. So we are starting in the population center, Carson City, and will hopefully expand out from there,” Fling said.

The problem the program is facing isn’t the lack of mentors, it’s a lack of children.

“These children are often fairly invisible because there is a stigma attached to having a parent in prison. It’s not something most of these kids want to talk about,” Fling said.

So far, the program has matched two mentors with children and expects two more matches in the next week. The organization is holding an informational session from 8-9 a.m. today at the Carson City office, 500 Mallory Way.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters program is similar to the program operating at the Mentor Center on the campus of Western Nevada Community College. That program was established seven years ago as an alternative to similar national programs.

“I’m hoping they can reach the areas we aren’t reaching. It’s a great program, we are modeled after them,” said Ruth Gordon, Mentor Center director. “When we founded the center the community decided to create our own program instead of bringing in a national program.”

Gordon said she isn’t concerned about sharing volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters, but hopes there isn’t confusion because of the similar missions.

“It’s not that there won’t be enough mentors, we have the population. We just hope there isn’t confusion about who people should mentor with. We don’t want the ‘should I mentor with you or them’ problem,” Fling said.

But both agencies agree the program benefits both the children and the mentors.

“This is a way to change the life of a child. To leave a legacy and make the world a better place,” Fling said. “One volunteer said it lets him be an undercover kid again.”

• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at or 881-1217.

Children who are matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister are:

• 46% less likely to initiate drug use

• 27% less likely to initiate alcohol use

• 32% less likely to hit someone

• 52% less likely to skip school

• 37% less likely to skip class

• 37% less likely to lie to a parent

Source: “Making a Difference: An Impact Study of Big Brothers Big Sisters,” by Joseph P. Tierney, Jean Baldwin Grossman with Nancy Resch,

Public Private Ventures, November 1995

If you go

What: Informational meeting about Big Brothers Big Sisters

When: 8-9 a.m. today

Where: 500 Mallory Way

Call: 352-3202 for