- Associated Press - Monday, February 2, 2015

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - En route to becoming the first in her family to graduate college, Daria Arthur now wishes she’d had a mentor to guide her along the way.

“My parents, neither one of them went to college, so I had no idea how to apply for college or fill out the FAFSA,” said Arthur, a 23-year-old Purdue University student. “I had to learn on my own.”

Knowing what it feels like to navigate new waters for the first time, Arthur decided to become a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Lafayette. She wanted to help guide other African-American girls to success.

Under the helm of a new executive director, Chris Hannon, the nonprofit is seeking diverse mentors to shorten its long wait list of children, many of whom are minority.

“It’s not a new problem,” Hannon told the Journal & Courier (https://on.jconline.com/1CCYdo4 ). “It’s not a local problem, either. It’s a national issue. My goal is to grow the program. I see the improvement we are making in the community, and I’m driven to make it an even bigger one.”

Currently, the program has about 120 youths who have been matched with a mentor. However, 99 youths ages 6 to 18 are waiting to be matched. Of those, 52 are white, 10 are Hispanic, one is a member of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender) community, four are multi-racial and 32 are African-American.

At 83 percent, the pool of mentors is overwhelmingly white.

“Some of the minority youth in this community want to see themselves reflected here, especially youth who have transitioned into this community and experience some form of culture shock,” Hannon said. “We think our program can help with that.”

Hannon said the African-American youths on the wait list are disproportionately male, which also reflects a need for male mentors. About 60 percent of the more than 120 volunteers mentors are female, he added.

Arthur’s “Little Sister,” Destiny Mabry, moved to Lafayette from Chicago about four years ago.

“It was a just a bad neighborhood,” said Mabry, a 14-year-old freshman at Oakland High School. “There was a lot of shooting. My cousin got shot. He was 19.”

Mabry wanted to join the mentorship program for a while. Eventually, she enrolled herself and her younger sister, Alicia Mabry.

“I don’t want to grow up and be bad,” she said. “Even though my mom is teaching me, I feel like it’s not enough.”

In the past, she’s had difficulty keeping good grades and her priorities straight, she said. “I couldn’t separate my academic and my social life,” she said.

Mabry sees Arthur as an older sister who can relate.

The two talk about dating, boys, school and college. They bake together, try new restaurants and go to Purdue men’s basketball games.

Arthur wants to be the advocate for Mabry that she wished she’d had as a young African-American female.

“I would’ve had more of a plan, a little more of a clear view of how I wanted to do things and where my head should’ve been,” Arthur said.

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Information from: Journal and Courier, https://www.jconline.com

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