RYE, N.Y. -- Mara Steiner and Michelle Perez aren’t related but they are sisters nonetheless.
“It’s nice to have someone you can talk to,” said Michelle, 15, a New Rochelle High School student who has been mentored by Steiner, a Scarsdale resident, since she was nine. “It’s like family.”
Steiner met Michelle six years ago through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program run by Port Chester-based organization Family Services of Westchester (FSW), which pairs up adult mentors with children in need of positive role model throughout the county.
The pair spent Saturday together with at Rye Country Day School, where the organization held its seventh annual Summer Games July 9.
The day was filled with sports, carnival games, arts and crafts and healthy food. Big and Little Brothers and Sisters were competing in three-legged races, launching rubber lobsters into pots and making paper flowers together.
“It’s just a good, wholesome day of fun for the kids,” said Lynn Green, Vice President for Development and External Affairs at FSW.
Mentors like Steiner volunteer at least eight hours a month to spend with their mentees, and make at least a one-year commitment.
Green explained that there is an extensive process to match up the right pair, but that there are more children in need of mentors than are available, part of which is due to lack of funding.
“To have a good role model is so important for these children to succeed in life,” said Deborah Boillot. “But every match requires financial support.”
For Michelle, having Steiner in her life has encouraged her to be more outgoing and generous. She spent most of the day volunteering her time to help younger children with arts and crafts and translating instructions from English to Spanish.
Steiner has also gained much from her experience as a mentor.
“I’ve learned to be a good listener,” she said. “You begin to understand how somebody else’s life it. It gives me perspective.”