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Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter recognized for mentoring program

By Lea Ann Overstreet, Staff Writer
Nashville - Tennessean
February 1, 2008

ROSA L. PARKS BOULEVARD — The local chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee was recently recognized at the White House for having one of the most successful youth mentoring programs in the country.

Lowell Perry Jr., CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee, and Blaine Bishop, former Tennessee Titan and member of the board of directors, traveled to Washington to take part in a roundtable discussion centered on faith-based and community mentoring programs. The two were selected to attend the conference because of the Amachi program, which provides mentors to children who have one or more parents in prison.

Big Brothers Big Sisters received a Health and Human Services grant in 2004 to become an affiliate of the program, which was founded by the Rev. W. Wilson Goode, a former Philadelphia mayor.

"Amachi" is taken from the Nigerian Ibo term meaning "who knows but what God has brought us through this child."

According to Big Brothers Big Sisters, children of prisoners are 70 percent more likely to one day be incarcerated.

"These children currently all have a mentor. It's just that in many cases, it's not the right one," Perry said.

The Amachi program served 555 children last year.

Perry and Bishop spoke to more than 100 people during the roundtable discussion.

The roundtable focused on innovative and effective policies and partnerships in mentoring programs. Perry told the group that there is a need for additional African-American men to become volunteer mentors. Bishop spoke about the influence that mentors had in his life. The former Titan was a little brother in the Big Brother program when he was a child.

The offices for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee are at One Vantage Way off Rosa L. Parks Boulevard. For more information on the organization and the Amachi program, call 329-9191 or visit http://www.bbbsmt.org/.