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After months of delays, the Big Brothers Big Sisters program is about to take a major leap forward in Graham County.

By the end of this month, seniors at Safford High School will start being matched with younger students, said Marie Logan, chief executive officer of BBBS of Southern Arizona.

Last December, the United Way of Graham and Greenlee Counties provided the non-profit organization a $59,750 grant so it could begin “igniting the power and promise of youth” in Graham County by providing one-on-one mentoring. However, the pandemic struck and slowed down the process.

Once the SHS program is off and running, office space will be rented for the director of the Graham County BBBS program and then a community-based Big Brothers Big Sisters program in both Graham and Greenlee counties will be launched, Logan said.

“It’s a process, we want to make sure the support systems are there,” Logan said. “It really depends on the community and how well we can reach out and connect people together. Our timeline is flexible. We’re still dealing with the pandemic and rely on community members to step up and volunteer.”

Logan’s excited about the program, especially because rural children are often overlooked.

“In rural areas, there aren’t as many resources and there aren’t as many things to do. We have our Bigs and Littles do things together in the community. Our activities and group fun help kids feel a part of a supported group. Our activities include field trips to Tucson where they can participate in sports as well as fishing,” Logan said. “Kids, no matter where they’re at do better with a mentor.”

For the past six weeks, Samantha Young has been undergoing extensive training to begin her job. She’ll be matching little sisters and brothers with their adult, or high school senior mentor. She’ll also be organizing activities for the volunteers and kids.

A Safford local, Young is pursuing her associate’s degree in secondary education. She’s worked as a special education teacher’s assistant as well as a youth counselor.

She thinks the program could be a game-changer for local youth and can’t wait to get started.

“This will give the kids another outlet besides drug use and dropping out of school,” she said.

The high school program will give the older kids a sense of responsibility and encourage them to set a good example for the younger students, Young said.

She can’t wait to orchestrate activities and field trips, she said. She hopes to open new doors and bring a wider view of the world to their lives through the field trips.

“I want to help them succeed in any way that we can. I’m super excited about this program,” Young said.

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