(Jan. 25, 2013) Dustin Alt, a junior at Stephen Decatur High School, spends part of one day each month at Atlantic General Hospital.
He is not ill and he is not getting medical tests. He is being mentored by a hospital employee who is participating in the workplace mentoring program of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Chesapeake.
Dustin, 16, first heard about Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Chesapeake from his school guidance counselor who recommended it and he liked the idea.
“I’d been wanting to have more people to talk to,” said Dustin, who lives in Ocean Pines with his mother, stepfather and sister.
At school, Dustin’s favorite subject is math and he scored in the top 20 percent in that subject of all students in the United States who took the PSAT test. Next semester, he will take the SAT prep test and he plans to take the SAT during his senior year. He thinks he would like to work in accounting.
Bryan Mullins, Dustin’s mentor, thinks he “would make a great counselor. He’s got a big heart for those younger than him. It could be a career path.”
Mullins, a 40-year-old Salisbury resident, decided to become a mentor because he had a difficult upbringing and some people outside his family made a big difference in his life.
“At critical points in my teenage life, they stepped in and saved me,” Mullins said Monday. “They gave me real good advice when I needed it.
He remembered that valuable help when he arrived one day to work at his job as a diagnostic medical sonographer at the hospital and saw a display about workplace mentoring with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Chesapeake. Someone told him he could select someone to mentor and the mentoring would not interfere with his work.
Atlantic General Hospital and the Worcester County Health Department encourage employees to participate in workplace mentoring so students can develop meaningful relationships with adults who help them learn about the workplace and to meet developmental and academic challenges. The program is funded by the Worcester County Board of Education and managed by Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Chesapeake.
Mullins felt drawn to the program and asked to work with a male of any age who did not have significant emotional problems.
“I was really fortunate to get Dustin,” Mullins said. “If he sets himself up right, he can be a good citizen.”
In the workplace mentoring program, the child spends four hours a day each month at the mentor’s workplace. At AGH, approximately 20 students are mentored by the hospital’s mentors and they gather in the conference room where they have functions such as exercises and talks about various life skills, such as learning about personal budgets and meeting goals.
“We hung out once a month, but quickly realized it’s not enough,” Mullins said. “So we quickly started doing activities locally with his mom’s permission.”
“We’re not stepping in to be parents in any way,” Mullins said. “We are an alternate set of adults in his life.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Chesapeake hopes its mentors will continue working with their students through high school graduation. The relationship between Dustin and Mullins could last longer.
“I don’t see it ending,” Dustin said. “I don’t want it to.”
Mullins would like other men to mentor students as he is doing.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Chesapeake, Mullins said, “needs more male role models. They really need some males to step in because a lot of kids need a male influence.”
Mullins recalled those adults who stepped forward to help him as a teenager with a less than ideal home life.
“I started in a ditch, but by no means do we have to stay there,” he said.
Because of those caring adults, he is now helping Dustin and he wants others, especially men, to volunteer a few hours a month to help a student.
Dustin also wants more people to volunteer to be mentors and he wants more students to be mentored.
“I highly recommend it to anybody else,” Dustin said. “I know quite a few people on the verge of not graduating.”
Anyone interesting in becoming a mentor or in learning more about Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Chesapeake is encouraged to call Jessica Mimms, the organization’s director, at 443-366-2471.
Approximately 20 students are on the waiting list to be matched with mentors.