06/12/2013 12:42 pm ET Updated Aug 12, 2013

To the Five Boroughs: Mentors Wanted

For many of us, Father's Day is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the special men in our lives who helped us become the people we are today. But it is also an opportunity to raise awareness of the many thousands of young people in the five boroughs who must grow up without fathers or even father figures.

While there is no substitute for a father, a caring adult role model can make a profound, positive impact on the life of a child. As the nation's first and New York's largest youth mentoring organization, BBBS of NYC serves more than 3,500 young people each year through one-to-one mentoring relationships. Most of these children live below the poverty line in single-parent households. But there are more than 150,000 children in the five boroughs who fall into this category -- and that is our target population. Childhood and adolescence are trying enough even under ideal circumstances -- but these added challenges create a barrier to success that is difficult to overcome.

Our goal is to provide a mentor to every young person who wants or needs one. The need for volunteer mentors is tremendous -- and our greatest focus is attracting men from all five boroughs. That's why we've launched a year-long citywide recruiting campaign aimed at encouraging adults throughout New York City to volunteer as mentors.

We know firsthand that mentoring changes lives. Young people in our programs do better in school, experience higher self-esteem and enjoy stronger relationships with their peers and families. These are real results.

Mentors come from all walks of life. Many people think you need to be a doctor, lawyer, or investment banker to be an effective mentor. But we're simply looking for caring individuals who want to be a positive influence to a young person. Our mentors, or "Bigs," come from a wide range of backgrounds and work in a variety of industries, including construction, public service, and education.

By the end of 2013, BBBS of NYC hopes to have not only found mentors for the hundreds of children waiting for Bigs, but also to have significantly increased the number of male mentors living in the boroughs. Please consider volunteering to become a Big and start making a positive impact on a child in need of a friend. Go to the park, play some sports or check out a museum -- our mentors change the lives of children. You'll be helping a child, and in turn helping the family and the greater community at large.

This Father's Day, as you reflect on your dad and how he changed your life for the better, please consider doing the same for a young person in need -- please consider becoming a Big.

To become a volunteer mentor or to learn more about Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC, log onto or call 212-686-2042.