LOS LUNAS— Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central New Mexico plans to expand its program in Valencia County through a new memorandum of understanding with Los Lunas Schools in order to facilitate more mentorship matches.

“We’ve been trying to make a program in Valencia County, in general, for a little while. We were actually getting pretty close to starting one, or an official partnership,” said Sebastian Martinez, chief development officer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central New Mexico. “We’ve always been in Valencia County in an unofficial sense. We’ve had a few matches from there, volunteers and kids from there, but nothing official from the schools or anything to that extent.”

Martinez said the goal of BBBS is to facilitate 30 to 40 more matches in the county with the school district helping identify students they feel will benefit from the mentorship program and form a pipeline for those children.

“They are also going to be committed to help us recruit volunteers, connecting us with the community,” Martinez added. “We have a lot of partners already.”

Although the nonprofit organization has several partners in Valencia County, the director stressed they are still looking for mentors to match with children in Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“The community needs to be committed to mentorship,” Martinez said. “There needs to be kind of a baseline commitment and culture in the community that says, ‘Hey, we need to band together to make our community a better place.’”

Any adult 18 years and older can apply to be a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters with successful candidates passing a federal background check and an interview with the organization.

“Mentoring is what’s really going to be able to keep our traditions. Our mentoring we have in Valencia County (is) going to be the key to really passing on those values, those core values, we have to the young people,” Martinez said, adding mentors typically dedicate four to five hours per month to spend with their mentee.

Martinez said mentors don’t have to put a ton of thought into activities they do while spending time with their littles, giving his own experience as a big as reference.

The first time he spent time with his first mentee, they worked on his car together, changing spark plugs — something he already had to do, but decided to do with his little.

“Do what you already do. We all have hobbies; you don’t have to be the next president of the United States to mentor,” he said. “We all have things that seem pretty normal to us, like fly fishing. I fly fish all the time. Why not bring someone who is also interested in fly fishing with you?”

Mentors are paired with children based on common interests, for example a mechanic could be paired with a child who likes cars, and an avid hiker could be paired with a student who has an interest in nature and being outside.

“It’s about letting them experience those things that are very normal to us, but are incredibly unique to these young people,” Martinez said, “and frankly, those experiences change their lives.”

Mentors can apply by contacting Big Brothers Big Sisters office at 505- 837-9223, or through the website, bbbs-cnm.org. Parents can also sign their children up for the program by speaking with their school officials if in the Los Lunas Schools District, or through the BBBS website.

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Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, SODA and the town of Peralta.